Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews’ agreement to grant Robert Jovicic a meeting with his chief of staff seems like progress in Jovicic’s fight to discuss his bid to remain in Australia without applying for Serbian citizenship. But the provision that Jovicic must come to the meeting alone is “extraordinary” and “frightening”, according to a spokesperson from the Australia Council of Civil Liberties.

Robert Jovicic has been offered a meeting with new Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews’ chief of staff, but there’s a catch: he has to come alone.

Jovicic told Crikey this morning that under no circumstances will he agree to these terms. “I’m not willing to take the risk,” says Jovicic. “It’s my word against their’s. All I want is someone to take minutes and perhaps offer me advice if need be.”

Jovicic is currently without legal representation but would like an advisor to accompany him to the meeting.

“Given the history of this matter I couldn’t agree more with him,” David Bernie, spokesperson for the Australian Council Of Civil Liberties, told Crikey. “It sounds awfully like the copper saying ‘just leave me alone with him for five minutes and I’ll solve this problem.'”

“It leaves you with a fear that when he goes in alone with someone far more qualified than him, that person [the bureaucrat] is going to make all sorts of threats,” says Bernie. “…it’s really quite frightening.”

“It’s not like two equals meeting, two business men meeting over lunch without the lawyers to take care of business. This is someone who’s meeting with a senior bureaucrat and it’s a major disadvantage.”

“It creates the perception that they want to pressure him into a certain result,” says Bernie. “The minister’s office should welcome someone there so that there is no misunderstanding.”

Jovicic, initially deported to Serbia on character grounds after committing a string of crimes related to his heroin addiction, was brought home by the government last year on “compassionate grounds”. He has not committed a crime since 2000 and remains drug free.

Kevin Andrews has so far granted Jovicic an extension of fourteen days:

…officials from my department have informed Mr Robert Jovicic of my decision to grant him a further two weeks to allow him to meet conditions set by the Government to enable him to stay in Australia.

Mr Jovicic was advised that his remaining lawfully in Australia is subject to the following conditions, namely that:

  • he apply within 14 days from today for Serbian citizenship, to which we understand he is entitled, and;
  • he commit no further criminal offences.

Crikey contacted Kevin Andrews’ office for a comment but they didn’t get back to us before publication.


Peter Fray

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