Hazaras not deterred by tougher immigration laws

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The Hazaras not deterred by tougher immigration laws

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TONY EASTLEY: More than 500 asylum seekers arrived in Australia over the weekend and in Afghanistan ethnic Hazaras have told the ABC that tougher immigration laws will not deter them from paying people smugglers to get to Australia.

Hazaras are persecuted in Afghanistan and many have paid thousands of dollars to come to Australia by boat. They say it’s worth spending the money and the time on Nauru for a chance to escape poverty and violence.

South Asia correspondent Michael Edwards reports from Kabul.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: War and persecution have forced hundreds of thousands of Hazaras out of the provinces and into Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul. And on the streets they’re quick to tell you they also want to get out of the country.

Many of them see Australia as the place to go.

HAZARA MAN (translated): Our people in Australia are happy. They accept us easily. There are more work opportunities.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: Tens of thousands of Hazaras have fled to Australia and many more want to come.

Feroza Qasem and her friend Zubaida Tahiri are two Hazara women living in Kabul. Lots of their friends have made the voyage.

ZUBAIDA TAHIRI: As we have heard, those who are there, they are happy from their life. That’s why we would prefer Australia.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: They also want to go. They know the risks and they see people smuggling as a necessary evil.

FEROZA QASEM: I don’t have that much money to pay. If I could find the money I will pay for going to Australia.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: Ramin Salik has a cousin in Jakarta waiting to get on a boat to Australia, courtesy of people smugglers, and he’s saving up for the same journey.

RAMIN SALIK (translated): Yes, I am still looking forward and trying to go. I tried to go last year to find someone – a trafficker to get me to Australia. I will pay whatever it takes.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: The ABC has been told that rates for people smugglers range from $US10,000 to more than $US20,000.

The Australian Government has recently toughened its immigration laws by reintroducing offshore detention.

FEROZA QASEM: Yeah we know the rules become tough for refugees. Again, we want to go to Australia because our life is danger after 2014, we can’t live, maybe Taliban come back.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: Zaheer Ali is a Hazara Refugee Advocate.

ZAHEER ALI: So people are very clearly looking for the betterment of their lives and I don’t think so that any sort of action points by the Afghan government or any sort of action points by the Australian Government could stop asylum seekers going to Australia.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: Even those who have already tried and failed to get to Australia still want to come.

University teacher Abdul Ali got as far as Malaysia. He paid people smugglers there $20,000 before he was arrested by local police and deported back to Afghanistan. He knows it’s tougher now but it’s only made him more determined.

ABDUL ALI: I want to go again to Australia because the situation with security in Afghanistan is very, very bad for me and for those who are living in Afghanistan. Everyone wants to go there.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: To these people even life in a camp on Nauru is preferable to one of filled with violence and uncertainty.

TONY EASTLEY: South Asia correspondent Michael Edwards reporting from Kabul.

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