REFUGEES and supporters gathered in Perth on Palm Sunday to welcome the release of two refugees from Perth Immigration Detention Centre, and called for an end to government’s “harsh” stance keeping people in detention or on fragile temporary visas.
The two refugees released last week had come from Iran and spent six years on Manus Island. They were “medevaced” to Perth in 2019 but remained locked in detention until now.
The releases gave refugees, supporters, and Uniting Church and Anglican Church leaders something to celebrate on Palm Sunday as they gathered at the annual Justice4Refugees rally outside St Georges Cathedral.
The releases came shortly after a federal government announcement of an allocation of more humanitarian visas for people fleeing Afghanistan and Ukraine, and followed several men from the eastern states being freed.
Anglican Archbishop of Perth Kay Goldsworthy said in her Palm Sunday statement “our hope is that the Australian Government’s latest move to release more refugees into the community and to provide more humanitarian visas to people escaping Afghanistan and Ukraine is a sign that it will now move away from its current harsh stance against the 30,000 people who are already in Australia, having fled for safety by sea.”
About 20,000 people are on a cycle of temporary visas, and 11,000 are on bridging visas awaiting the outcome of their asylum claims. About 1500 people are in detention.
“It has become clear to the entire world that when people flee for their lives from situations of conflict and oppression, desperation dictates the means of escape. As we have seen in Afghanistan and now in Ukraine, official processes and systems break down in a crisis and can even be used against the most vulnerable.”
“It is up to the rest of the world to adapt with compassion to such humanitarian crises. Those most impacted by the crisis should not have to jump through endless hoops in their quest for safety, security and freedom.”
A network of 20 refugee support groups have gathered stories from people on fraught temporary visas at www. weallneedourfamilies.com
NADER HOSSEINI is a refugee from Afghanistan, and a member of the Hazara community which has long faced discrimination.
He said his people were in increasing despair: “We have fled the Taliban nearly 10 years ago and yet we still cannot be with our families.
“I have my four children still in danger. The Australian government has agreed that I am a refugee, but they won’t allow me to bring my family here.”
He has been here for nine years and works as a tiler, but is still on a temporary Safe Haven Enterprise Visa.
He says “permanency would be everything… I could bring my family here, I could buy a house, and I could open my own business”.
Refugees facing business barriers
ABDULLAH SHAHAB fled Afghanistan in 2012 to seek asylum in Australia. He waited five years for his refugee claim to be processed, and is currently on a temporary visa.
“It is extremely hard for people to remain positive when they can’t see hope for a better future,” he says.
He is on a five-year Safe Haven Enterprise Visa, but because it’s temporary it’s been hard to expand his business.
“I am a painter. I have my own business and I hire other people. I started the business around one year ago.
I cannot get a bank loan to improve my business. If I want to buy equipment or a car for my business, I have to pay cash.
“Being on a temporary visa has also affected my mental health. Not being able to see my family, or bring them here, makes me very sad. And now there is the terrible situation in Afghanistan. It is so hard to concentrate and I find it difficult to talk to people.”
by DAVID BELL