Informer faces deportation

Geoff Wilkinson
Herald Sun

A DETAINEE who helped authorities break up a people-smuggling ring faces almost certain deportation after 5 1/2 years behind barbed wire.

Whistleblower Leonard Peter said he was paid just $US20 ($26) by the Australian Federal Police for providing information about an Indonesian smuggler before he came to Australia.

But detention and legal costs during the Federal Government's long legal battle to deport him have cost taxpayers more than $500,000.

Mr Peter, a Pakistani, has been in detention since December 1999, when he arrived in Darwin on a boat.

But the 40-year-old asylum-seeker said from Baxter detention centre yesterday that he would rather stay in detention for the rest of his life than be returned to Pakistan.

"Because there I will die -- I know I will," Mr Peter said.

He said he could not understand why the Federal Government would not help him.

Mr Peter recently rejected a "removal pending" visa, which would have seen him freed provided he agreed to be deported.

He has exhausted all legal avenues of appeal, and his last hope of staying in Australia is a new plea to Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone for a humanitarian visa.

Mr Peter, a Christian, said he faced certain danger from religious extremists if he was sent back to Pakistan.

He said a fatwa (death sentence) had been issued against him because he converted to Islam to win back his estranged wife, then reverted to Christianity after his attempted reconciliation failed.

His wife's Muslim family had been opposed to their marriage and took her and their three children away from him with the help of two of her brothers, who were high-ranking local police.

He said he also feared a revenge attack for informing on an Indonesian people-smuggler who had powerful contacts in Pakistan. Mr Peter told the Herald Sun he had lost everything since he fled to Australia.

Both his parents had died while he has been in detention, and his wife had remarried so she could support their children, who are now aged 12, 14 and 17.

"I have lost the people who I love," he said. "I now just want to get the chance to do something for my children whenever they need me.

"I keep hoping and praying that one day I will have my freedom and have a normal life."

Mr Peter left Pakistan on August 4, 1999, to take a job he had seen advertised as a carpet salesman in Jakarta.

Soon after he started work he became concerned he might become implicated in a people-smuggling operation being run by his boss.

Mr Peter contacted the Australian embassy in Jakarta and had several meetings with an AFP liaison officer. He provided police with photocopies of passports and tickets obtained for 26 asylum-seekers, and his information led to raids by Indonesian police in November 1999.

Mr Peter said he fled to Bali soon after for fear of reprisals, and out of desperation paid another people-smuggler $1000 for passage to Australia.

A Refugee Review Tribunal ruling on his case conceded he could be at risk of a revenge attack by criminals involved in the people-smuggling ring if he was forced to return to Pakistan.

But the tribunal ruled Mr Peter did not have a legitimate fear of persecution under the five reasons specified by the Refugees Convention.

The tribunal said it was satisfied that "any harm befalling the applicant . . . would be the result solely of a desire for revenge and not for any of the five Convention reasons".

These are a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership of a particular social group.

Appeals to the Federal Court and an application for leave to appeal to the High Court failed.

A spokesman for Senator Vanstone said she would not comment on individual cases for privacy reasons and because she might have to consider them.


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