Zahir Hassan Zada was a teenager when he fled Afghanistan after his father was taken by the Taliban. His family settled in Pakistan but life as Hazara refugees was never safe and in 2010 he left behind a wife and two young sons to find a new life. Today, after spending nearly half his life as a refugee, he is waiting to officially call Australia home and reunite with his family.
When asylum seeker Zahir Hassan Zada reached Christmas Island in April 2010 his wife feared him dead.
For eight days he had been on a boat which left Indonesia filled with 52 people, including four women and two children.
Fellow Hazaras both before and since have lost their lives making a similar journey to flee the sectarian violence they faced in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“It was very hard to arrive to Australia, especially on the boat,” Mr Hassan Zada said.
“One night I remember at midnight it was a tough night.
“We nearly died because the water was rough, so we were all scared on that night.”
When the boat arrived at Christmas Island Mr Hassan Zada was able to call his family and let them know he was safe.
“The Australian Navy took us, at that time we were happy, we were all happy, because we got a new life,” he said.
“They give me a mobile, I can call for my family [to say] that ‘now I am safe, I have arrived to Australia, in detention’.
“When I called them, my wife took the mobile, she was surprised that I am alive, they can hear my voice, they were surprised about that.
“They are saying that they are thinking that maybe ‘you are not alive’.”
Making a new life
The decision to leave Pakistan to seek asylum in Australia was difficult, especially for Mr Hassan Zada’s wife.
“She was scared, she told me, ‘don’t go to Australia, it is hard to go to Australia’.
“It is a hard decision, but you take it, I was compelled that I had to take this decision because Pakistan was not safe.
“I had to come to Australia to make a new home for myself, my wife and my sons.”
Mr Hassan Zada was 17 when his father was abducted by the Taliban.
He has not seen him since.
“It was hard living in Afghanistan,” he said.
“My father was a shop keeper, he was selling clothes.
“He went to Kabul to bring clothes, jeans… they [the Taliban] took my father, with the car and everything.
“I haven’t seen him and I haven’t heard his voice, still.”
Leaving behind family
When Mr Hassan Zada left Pakistan his sons were aged just three and six months.
He spent 15 months in detention, at Christmas Island and later the Curtin Detention Centre in Western Australia.
After being granted a refugee visa he lived in Adelaide and in 2014 moved to the Riverland, where he has been able to find work picking fruit.
The money he earns helps him support his mother and wife in Pakistan.
He is waiting to receive Australian citizenship so that he can sponsor his wife and children to join him in Australia.
“We are waiting to get our citizenship, when I get citizenship I can get them into Australia,” Mr Hassan Zada said.
“I’m not sure [when], because the government is making it harder day by day.”
“I’m just waiting til I can bring them to Australia.”
He describes how he thinks his young sons will feel when he is finally able to takes them to a playground in Australia.
“Like a baby, when he or she is born in the world, like that, feeling like that.”