Papua New Guinea has refused to accept a 40-year-old man who has lived in Australia since he was three, after the Australian government tried to deport him to his country of birth under its controversial character test laws.
Gus Kuster was flown out of Australia on Wednesday afternoon, the ABC reported, but PNG immigration refused to let him through.
The head of PNG’s immigration authority said Kuster would be returned to Australia until PNG could establish his citizenship status.
“He has been refused entry until ICA receives a formal request with necessary documentation on his citizenship status before a decision is conveyed to Australian authorities,” Solomon Kantha said.
Kuster’s family said Australian authorities had put him on a plane in Brisbane with two weeks of accommodation booked and $250. Kuster has said he has no close family in Port Moresby.
Kuster, whose mother is Papua New Guinean, describes himself as a “fourth generation Australian” who has lived in Australia for 37 of his 40 years.
“Both my grandfather and great grandfather were born in New South Wales,” he told Guardian Australia earlier this year.
“My great-grandfather served in Gallipoli WWI with the Australian Army, my grandfather served in Pacific WWII for Australian Army and also my father is an Australian citizen,” he said.
“I thought I was an Australian too, I have grown up in Australia since I was three years old (1982) until the age of 40 which is now. I have completed all my schooling here, my whole life of what I can remember is in Australia.
I have a son with an Australian woman and he is an Australian.”
Kuster was deported under section 501 of the Immigration Act, a controversial six-year-old law which allows the Australian government to cancel visas of non-citizens who have been convicted of crimes and sentenced to 12 months jail or more. The government is seeking to expand those powers.
Since the law changed in 2014, under the then immigration minister Scott Morrison, more than 4,150 visas have been cancelled.
The Australian government forcibly deported 1,023 people to New Zealand between 2016 and 2018.
After serving a sentence of 12 months – the most recent of several periods in jail for drug and driving offences, according to the ABC – Kuster learned his visa had been cancelled.
“I didn’t even know I had a visa, I honestly thought I was an Australian citizen,” he said at the time.
He was unsuccessful in appealing against it, and in June was moved away from family and friends to the Melbourne immigration detention centre.
“The constant mental torment, stress and worry has gotten the best of me and I feel I have been forced to sign to be removed from Australia and go to Papua New Guinea.
“A place where I have no knowledge of and do not understand or speak the language, a place I have no family, friends or any kind of support at all. A place where I will be outcasted.”
Australia’s deportation of people with criminal records has been an increasingly corrosive diplomatic issue, particularly with New Zealand, whose citizens make up the bulk of cases. The Australian government has also sought to deport Indigenous Australians.
There are significant complications around those with PNG ties, thanks to a tangle of citizenship laws in both countries, and various changes over the decades since PNG became independent from Australian administration in 1975. Uncertainty over the citizenship of people born in Papua when it was an Australian territory, and who then moved to Australia, potentially affect tens of thousands of people.
The Australian minister for immigration, David Coleman, declined to comment on an individual case. The department of home affairs and the PNG immigration authority have been contacted for comment.