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Friday 28 October 2016

'My mother is finding it really tough. She is bed bound with stress' - Young Irishman (26) held among criminals at detention centre in Australia

Ryan Nugent

Published 30/07/2016 | 10:30

Bernard Lee
Bernard Lee

An Irishman is being held for up to three months among criminals at a detention centre in Australia after his visa application was rejected on character grounds.

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Bernard Lee (26), from Greystones in Co Wicklow was arrested by border police in Perth earlier this week.

He is being held for not leaving the country within 20 days of his visa application being rejected - despite insisting that he did not receive a letter making him aware of the decision.

Speaking to the Herald from Yongah Hill Detention Centre, Mr Lee said he was sleeping on a bunk bed in a room with one other Irish man, but is surrounded by criminals who have served prison time and are waiting to be deported.

"My mother is finding it really tough. She had been sick for two years and now she is bed bound with stress," he said.

Mr Lee had already booked flights for a holiday with his Australian girlfriend, who is now in Europe.

She will now have to meet his parents for the first time without him.

Read more: Young Irishman (26) fighting for release after wrongful detention by armed police in Australia

Mr Lee has offered to leave the country voluntarily, but is being held at a cost of €1,700 a week to Australian taxpayers.

Mr Lee said he has an obstruction of police offence and two drink-driving convictions in Australia and another in Ireland over the past seven years.

This means he is deemed to have not passed the character test to qualify for a bridging visa and must be detained.

He said he was not disputing these incidents, but that he was not notified of the rejection.

Due to the many nationalities in detention, the Wicklow man described the centre as like "an American prison movie".

"There's a lot of guys here that don't speak English," he said.

"There are no set routines. We've got a points system where you have to go to the gym or classes to get points for food."

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