The Immigration Department thought the case was “borderline” for granting Pakistani leg spinner Fawad Ahmed a permanent visa and then Australian citizenship, according to media reports.
The Pakistan-born cricketer last year had his application for Australian citizenship approved, ending four years of stress and uncertainty.
Ahmed originally came to Australia as an asylum seeker and finally became a citizen after changes to federal legislation fast-tracked his application.
Ahmed generated plenty of excitement in local cricket circles with his spin-bowling ability, and Cricket Australia lobbyists reportedly pushed for him to get a passport in time for the 2013 Ashes series in England.
However, government briefing documents and others obtained under Freedom Of Information are said to show the Immigration Department considered his case was “borderline” from the beginning.
The ABC reported that the department was worried his case “may result in an adverse impact” on other asylum seekers “who apply through the normal channels”.
The spinner was given special treatment from both political big parties due to sustained pressure from cricket interests, the report also claims.
Ahmed’s claim for asylum was initially rejected by both the Immigration Department and Refugee Review Tribunal.