Keep Darko 'Dougie' Desic in Australia

Keep Darko 'Dougie' Desic in Australia

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Anne Barrowclough started this petition to Alex Hawke MP (Minister for Immigration) and

Imagine fleeing a country that is sliding into darkness for another, freer place on the other side of the world. To live there for nearly four decades only to be told, in your sixties, that you will be forcibly returned to that darker country – which, incidentally, doesn’t actually exist any more.

This is the situation in which Darko ‘Dougie’ Desic finds himself. Desic fled the then Yugoslavia in the 1970s to avoid compulsory conscription, for a new life in Australia. He lost contact with friends and family and made his home here.

But he made the mistake, a stupid and ill-conceived error, of committing a minor crime – cultivating cannabis – for which he was convicted and imprisoned. As is now widely known, he was convicted to three and a half years but in 1992 he broke out of the Grafton Correctional Centre. He eventually made his way to Avalon, on Sydney’s northern beaches, where, despite being a fugitive, he has spent the last three decades as a model citizen, living and working as a labourer.

For all that time the 64-year-old has been deprived of family and even friends in whom he could confide. He’s had no Christmases, no birthday celebrations. Residents of Avalon had no idea he was a fugitive; most knew him only as the best dry stone wall builder in the area, and a kind and decent neighbour.

Desic handed himself into police on September 12, after the coronavirus pandemic made him homeless. As he awaited his court date, concerned locals raised funds for his legal battle and some offered him work and even a home when he was released.

On October 28, Desic pleaded guilty to escaping from lawful custody and was sentenced to two months’ extra jail for the offence. He had already been returned to prison to serve out the rest of his original jail term and after serving his original term and the additional jail time, he will be eligible for parole in December 2022.

Desic accepts, of course, that his original criminal offence was wrong. But even those who believe he should be subjected to the harshest penalty for escaping justice (from a crime that would today most likely be punished with a fine) cannot argue that by the end of 2022 he will have repaid his debt to society and should be free to live his life. 

However the Australian Border Force has now declared that Desic will be deported after he serves out his sentences ... deported back to a country which no longer exists and despite the police alleging he is an Australian citizen. 

Desic's lawyer Paul McGirr told the court his client hadn't committed a single crime while on the run and had led a blemish-free life for three decades. But the authorities appear determined to continue to punish him after he has served his legal sentence.

Desic has nothing to return to in the former Yugoslavia, a place that has fractured since he left, and where ancient hatreds still splinter communities. In Australia, on the other hand, he has friends, a neighbourhood that loves him - and to which he has contributed much over the years -  and the promise of employment and a home. 

We urge Immigration Minister Alex Hawke to prevent a deportation order being placed on Darko Desic, and to allow him to be released back into his community where he can live out his years in safety and peace.

0 have signed. Let’s get to 15,000!
At 15,000 signatures, this petition becomes one of the top signed on Change.org!