MELBOURNE, Australia — The Australian government said doctors were watching a Canadian citizen who is on a hunger strike to protest his imminent deportation from the country over visa problems.
Ziad Chebib was in a detention centre in Melbourne on Monday awaiting his removal after a battle to remain that has dragged on for years.
He had not eaten any food since last Thursday, confining himself to drinking water and the occasional cup of coffee.
An Australian immigration department spokesman, who didn’t want to be identified, said Monday that both detention centre and health professionals were keeping an eye on his condition, but no immediate intervention was planned.
“We would wait for a medical professional’s advice as to what action we might take if he chooses to continue not eating,” the spokesman said. “It would obviously be a significant period of time beyond now if he’s drinking water before something along those lines would need to be considered.”
The spokesman would not say precisely when Chebib would be deported, citing privacy rules.
“He’ll be removed as soon as practicably possible,” the spokesman said. “It can take time for flights to be booked, travel documents to be sourced…someone to be assessed as fit to fly medically.”
Chebib said Saturday in an interview from the detention centre that after exhausting his appeals a hunger strike was the last card he had to play.
“I want to stay in Australia with my family to reunite my family once (and for all) in this country here so at least that way we could be … under one roof.”
Chebib, 55, was born in Lebanon and emigrated to Canada in 1976, becoming a citizen and starting up a limousine business in Calgary.
In 2000, he and his family moved to Australia because two of his siblings already lived there.
Chebib was allowed in the country on a business visa but he was unable to make the income he needed to justify the visa. Both his wife and one of his sons developed health problems and his finances became overstretched, he said.
Then he started having problems with the Australian government, becoming tangled up in years of manoeuvring through the bureaucracy.
Two of Chebib’s married daughters can remain in the country, but battles with the government over the visa issues pressured his ill wife and son to move to Lebanon. He has another son who lives in Canada and some 85 extended family members who live in Australia.
But the immigration department spokesman said Chebib no longer fits the criteria of his original visa and was granted a number of appeals.
Earlier this year, Chebib turned to the Canadian High Commission in Australia for help. He said diplomats told him they had no say in an Australian immigration matter.
A spokesman for the Canadian Foreign Affairs department would only say Ottawa was aware of the matter.
“The Canadian consulate general in Sydney is in contact with local authorities and is ready to provide consular assistance as required,” Rodney Moore, a foreign affairs spokesman said Sunday.
It was unclear if the Australian government has officially notified the Canadian government(The Canadian Press) that it intends to send Chebib back, there is no requirement to do so said the immigration department spokesman.
“He is a Canadian citizen, he has access to his government and we have the right to remove him from our country,” the spokesman said.
“He has no further right at all to stay here.”