what it is like to be an asylum seeker

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I received a note from Amnesty International today about how our xenophobic society is still disobeying international law in turning refugees away. I’ve used much of Graham Thom’s email below, adding some of my own comments at the end.

“We had to push our way onto the boat, people were screaming and pushing each other out of the way. It was so crowded we had to sit with our knees squashed against our chests for 10 whole days. No one knew how to swim. At the end of the journey, the boat got a hole and people were fighting for life jackets. We didn’t get one. If the Australian Navy hadn’t reached us, we would have died.”

As ethnic Hazaras in Afghanistan, Najeeba and her family faced constant abuse, threats and violence. “Because we are Hazara,” she explains, “people thought we were nothing, servants, animals. We knew the journey was very dangerous, but to stay was certain death.”

Najeeba (right) with her younger brother Mahdi.
Now, in Australia she says, “When I am outside, I don’t have to worry about being attacked or raped because I’m a girl. When my dad leaves the house, I don’t have to worry that it is the last time I will see him. Australia is the first country that gave me a name, an identity, peace and security.”

Yet it’s Afghans like Najeeba whose applications for asylum were frozen four months ago. And it’s refugees like Najeeba that both major political parties intend to offload to some of the world’s poorest countries under a so-called ‘regional solution’.

The ‘Pacific Solution’ showed us beyond question that shipping asylum seekers off to remote places — far away from lawyers, the media and public scrutiny — severely harms already-traumatised people, costs a fortune, and solves no problems in the long term. We cannot accept a return to these dark days.

Since April, tens of thousands of us have delivered this powerful message in letters to our local MPs and at rallies all around Australia. And together we’re making a real difference. In recent weeks we’ve seen the media debunking baseless myths and encouraging Australians to really think again about asylum seekers.

Our next Prime Minister needs to get the message. Right now our politicians are publicly debating this issue; but the real work will begin once the new government is in office. Amnesty International is delivering a massive petition to the new PM on the first day new parliament sits.

Sign the online petition and be heard
Tell the racists in Australian politics that they don’t represent us. We are better than that.


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