09 January 2012

Student’s 'suspect' phone calls results in Australian visa cancellation

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Melbourne-based Pakistani student Salman Ghumman has been deported after security concerns were raised about 'suspect' phone calls he made to Pakistan. Authorities in Pakistan have now confirmed Ghumman could be detained under the country's strict anti-terror laws.

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Australian immigration authorities expressed security concerns about Salman Ghumman.

Salman Ghumman began attending Melbourne Institute of Technology in July 2010 where he was to study accounting. He was detained in December 2011 after being questioned by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) regarding several phone calls he had placed to Pakistan while in Australia. After being deemed a security risk by ASIO, his Australian visa was cancelled and he was deported.

Ghumman had been held at the Maribyrnong Immigration Detention Facility while he awaited deportation and tried to assess his options; he said he was told he "could appeal the decision from here but it could take more than a year and I can't stay in this detention centre. I don't want to go crazy in here".

Ghumman has maintained his innocence and his father, a retired Pakistan Air Force officer, had expressed his concern for his son's safety upon arriving back in Pakistan.

It seems unclear yet whether these concerns are justified as a spokesman for Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) agency said "If the Australian government or intelligence services have asked us to keep tabs on him, then he will definitely be questioned and probably detained. But if he is just a normal person coming back voluntarily and not deported as such, then I don't know".

This statement would seem to bode well for Ghumman as a spokeswoman for Australian immigration confirmed that Ghummad had left Australia "voluntarily" after the department refused to grant him a bridging visa and allow him to remain in Australian while he appealed his decision.

However, while the spokeswoman stated that "Australia adheres to its international obligations and does not involuntarily return people where they would face persecution or danger in the country they're being returned to" she also added that "criminal investigations are a matter for Pakistani authorities".

An official for Pakistan's Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) said "Our immigration authorities at the airport will be aware well in time of his arrival and he will be asked some questions about why he is being deported. Any documents on him will be checked and then a decision made by the relevant law enforcement officers."

It is not known why ASIO questioned Ghumman, although his father claimed his son has been unfairly targeted because the family had donated money to a banned organisation which is believed to be the charity arm of terrorist faction Lashkar-e-Toiba.

Ghumman has repeatedly stated that he plans to clear his name and return to Australia to complete his degree.


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