Leaving your country for good is one of the hardest decisions a person can be forced to make.
It means a break with all that you know – your family, your livelihood, your friends, how to fit in, how to be part of a society – all the familiar sights and sounds and smells and tastes.
My name is Najeeba Wazefadost and I am a refugee from Afghanistan. I came to Australia with my family by boat in September 2000.
I was born in a country that is shattered after decades of war that has left little sign of justice, humanity and freedom. People like me who were born into a minority ethnic group (Hazara) are subjected to discrimination and slavery at the hands of the majority ethnic groups.
My childhood was stolen: I don’t have good memories with other children, instead I remember being afraid; I remember persecution and death.
Hazaras have been persecuted ever since the ‘Hazara Wars’ of 1891-1893. There is no one single cause, reasons are both ethnic and sectarian, but Hazaras still face massacres by officials and warlords in Afghanistan.
We came to Australia to find a home where we would be safe. We also wanted to belong – to stop being an asylum seeker or a refugee and once again have the value and rights of a citizen.
Asylum seekers carry sorrow and distress and depend on human sympathy. An asylum seeker is a kneeling person; kneeling in front of the captain of the ship to ask for a reduced escape price; kneeling in front of the aid agency asking to be saved.
They get on a boat, on a piece of wood, not knowing where its taking them; their safety and security limited to that piece of wood, risking starving or drowning at sea.
We hear politicians saying things like, “Australia is accepting a large number of refugees for an industrialised country”. Those numbers consign people to the status of simple statistics. You can forget that people, whether they are asylum seekers or not, are mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, grandparents, daughters and sons.
After 10 years, I still remember life in the detention centre but thankfully it no longer defines who I am. I am no longer part of statistics. The asylum seekers arriving now continue to be numbers, to be statistics.
We beg the Australian politicians to look at these people from a human point of view, with mercy, not from the political point of view, with power. Please put your politics to one side and treat them as human beings.
My dream was always to get an education. I came to Australia with no English and have now graduated high school and have a degree in medical science. I hope to be a doctor one day. I will always thank Australia for giving me the opportunity to be educated, safe and secure and I want to contribute to Australia and make it proud of me.