Illegal immigrant uses Gumtree to survive
An illegal immigrant from India who has lived and worked without a visa since 2011 says he thinks of himself as Australian and refuses to leave the country because he has "done nothing wrong".
In an interview with SBS Punjabi, "Mr Kumar" complains he lives like a fugitive in fear of being caught and deported. He does odd jobs on Gumtree for cash to survive, and "most days, I eat only once".
"It's like, once a week or two days a week that I get some work and make $100 or $200 and I'm able to buy food, if not, I sleep without eating," he told SBS. "But there are times when despite doing the job, I'm not paid. But there's nothing I can do about it, I can't go to the police. So, it's damn tough."
He added, "As soon as I step out on the streets, I watch for any police officers or for that matter any government authority. I am constantly looking over my shoulder. Despite having lived here for so long and regardless of what happened to me, if I get caught, I will be deported in no time."
According to SBS, Mr Kumar is an "unlawful non-citizen" - one of tens of thousands of people living in Australia without a valid visa - who was ordered to leave the country four years ago.
He was refused an extension to his student visa in 2011, then married an Australian citizen in 2013 but was told to go back to India and apply for his partner visa from there. He claims he couldn't because his wife needed ongoing medical support.
By the time his appeal against the visa refusal came before the Migration Review Tribunal, he claims his wife had become violent towards him.
He asked for a visa on the grounds he was a victim of family violence, but the tribunal ruled the violence did not start "straight away" and would only be relevant to the visa refusal if it had existed at the time of the application.
He then asked the immigration minister to intervene. "But the minister did not exercise his power despite my circumstances clearly showing that I was a victim of family violence," he told SBS.
"What kind of system is this where an innocent man is punished for someone else's crime? I am being punished because I was a victim of family violence. Does that mean the system wanted me to put up with family violence?"
Mr Kumar believes he has been "wronged by the system". "I am in this situation because I spoke out against my partner for subjecting me to family violence," he said. "If I hadn't, I wouldn't be hiding like criminals."
Asked by the broadcaster why he doesn't just go home, Mr Kumar said: "I have thought about it many times. But there's only one thing that stops me - that I have done nothing wrong. I came here with a myriad of dreams. What will I tell my parents if I go back now after having lived here 10 years? I think myself an Australian and I haven't done anything wrong. I just want my visa back."
The Department of Home Affairs has been contacted for comment.