Australian furore over deportation of Serb

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A former Australian resident, who was stripped of his right to remain in the country and deported to Serbia on the grounds of bad character, has been camping outside the embassy in Belgrade to protest against his stateless and destitute plight.

Robert Jovicic was expelled after committing a string of burglaries to fund his heroin addiction. He has never lived in Serbia, does not speak the language, and is not entitled to work, claim welfare or seek medical care.

Born in Paris of Serb parents, Mr Jovicic moved to Australia at the age of two and spent 35 years in Melbourne. Australia is the only country and culture he knows. His sister, Susanna, and twin brother, Dragan, live there. He says he is penniless and sick, with no access to medicines. The ambassador, John Oliver, has told his family he is seriously concerned about his welfare.

The Australian Immigration Department is unmoved. Had he been an Australian citizen, he might have received treatment for his addiction, but he never acquired citizenship.Serbia also refuses to recognise his citizenship rights. His sister says he has severe physical and mental health problems and she believes he will die unless he is repatriated.

Some lawyers believe his deportation was illegal, arguing that since he was fully "absorbed" into Australian society, he had the same rights as a citizen. A test case on the issue is currently going through the courts.