A guest post by Tracie Aylmer.
My name is Tracie Aylmer. I am a migration agent and solicitor.
Recently, I have just found out the incredibly volatile situation in the Middle East concerning the Hazara in Pakistan and Iran and the Christians in Iran. They are living in incredible fear daily. They are being tortured and killed (in Iran), or are being hit with suicide bombings (in Pakistan). They are a minority who don’t fight back.
A number of them have come here by boat, being unable to wait for a permanent visa any longer. It takes around 3 years for a permanent humanitarian visa to be processed. For the Hazara living in Pakistan, they can be refused. The Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) believe that the Hazara are not in any fear. This is even though suicide bombers are targeting them regularly – the last instance was on 21 January 2014. The time before that was New Year’s Day.
I therefore wrote and emailed a submission to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP). The full submission can be found on my Humanitarian Programme Submission (where you can also find my references as well as other valuable information).
Since none of the major media authorities want to go anywhere near it, is there a way to give these people a well deserved voice?
Please help with this. I am asking everywhere. It is not their fault they felt they had no choice but to come here by boat. They felt it was their only way to survive.
INFORMATION SUBMISSION ON THE HUMANITARIAN PROGRAMME
“Non-violence confronts systematic injustice with active love, but refuses to retaliate with further violence under any circumstances. In order to halt the vicious cycles of violence, it requires a willing acceptance of suffering and death rather than inflicting suffering or death on anyone else.”- John Dear
This submission is to inform of my findings as a member of the community in relation to the position of refugees in Australia and from an Australian.
Due to conflict in many areas of the world, there are some minorities that need to be considered with more empathy. These people have been proven not to involve themselves in any aspect of fighting in their country, yet are discriminated against, tortured and murdered.
This paper will outline who the people are and why they need help. It will show that the Australian public has been wrongfully advised by the Australian government and that we are committing human rights injustices against those people.
I also show that there is too much bureaucracy when it comes to making applications for those in desperate need of help, as well as extensive wait times that are to the detriment of these people seeking asylum.
While the Australian government puts great emphasis on financial factors pertaining to these people, my paper shows how letting them into the community with permanent residence visas actually benefits Australia, while keeping them on temporary visas creates even more of a burden. Financially, Australia will be better off by allowing these peaceful people into the community on a permanent basis, as they thrive. Geographically, even though we are a ‘sunburnt country’, there is definitely enough room to allow many more of those in need to be allowed to live in this great country.
Finally, I examine how Australians have become so biased, as to believe that there are negative effects if these particular refugees are brought into Australia. I prove how the bias is unplaced and that better human rights should be in place. I prove that Australians believe, wrongly, that the people on boats requesting asylum are Muslim, when they are mostly in fact Christian, so a Christian viewpoint should be given after all.
Refugees most in need
The information paper shows extensive research to prove that, due to conflict in certain areas of the world, there are millions of those that can be classified as refugees. There is acknowledgement that these people need help in relocating, either back to their own country or to another. More often than not, they end up in the poorest communities of the world, trying to figure out how to live on a daily basis.
For this reason, they decide to leave the scarcity of their life for another, as they have little choice but to do so. The life they need to lead is one of peace and security. They do not wish to leave, as their families have been there for sometimes thousands of years. Regretfully, they do leave, as they have little choice for them to lead a life even barely like ours.
The refugees I am most talking about are from two main groups –the Hazara in Iran and Pakistan and the Christians living in the Middle East –although there are many different minor religious and other minorities that also need humanitarian support. These two groups are most desperately in need.
In another particular instance, any person who is ‘proven’ by courts in countries such as Pakistan and Iran to have blasphemed the name of Mohammed is subject to trials in court, where they are generally found guilty, even without clear evidence. These people are also in need.
Reasons why they are in need
The Hazara have been massacred and tortured for decades now. Even Wikipedia have noted the atrocities suffered by the Hazara. Facebook has a page dedicated to trying to stop killing the Hazara, with news reports frequently detailing deliberate suicide bombers killing Shia Muslims.
They are in need of more help than ever. The Taliban are certain that killing the Hazara will mean that they go to ‘paradise’. I have personally been told this by Hazara, who live in fear of being killed by suicide bombers on a daily basis.
The Hazara who live in Iran and Pakistan are mainly in need. In Iran, initial a couple of decades ago they were given asylum. Slowly, the Hazara were found to be unwanted, so many have now been pushed out of Iran. There have been complaints in relation to how forcible the Iranian government have been, including the use of torture and murder to push the Hazara out of Iran.
While they have been told to leave, they are left with little in order to leave. Every year, they must pay more and more to obtain their refugee cards –for them it is an exorbitant amount. They need to obtain loans in order to pay for their own refugee cards, in order to stay as legal refugees according to the UNHCR. They are not allowed to work, although many do under the Iranian government radar. They barely know anyone outside of Iran, and are obviously not given any more paperwork than necessary in order for them to exist.
The Hazara in Pakistan lead a similar existence. Extremists directly related to the Taliban are targeting and killing Shia Muslims, and they are easily able to identify who are Shia Muslims by their facial features. The Takfir are a group of extremists who are identified as the main perpetrators of atrocities upon the Hazara. Yet, the Hazara have not been known to hit back. There have been no recent documentation anywhere of violence against any group in any area from the Hazara. They therefore need protection, even if they are in a country that they are not used to. I am annexing two documents that shows the true figures of the killing of Shia Muslims at the end of this submission.
In addition, for the men who are already here on permanent visas and who have family in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran, they live in fear of each of their family members dying from suicide bombers. For some, it is already too late. One man I have been in contact with has already lost two of his sons by a suicide bomber. His application for his family to come to Australia on a humanitarian visa was refused, as this government believes that there isn’t enough information. This is a fallacy in order to ensure that no one comes into Australia.
In fact, there is more than enough information on the internet. Google shows more than 680,000 links in relation to the topic of ‘Hazara killing’, yet this person’s family’s humanitarian visa was refused. The reason why? The decision stated there wasn’t enough reason to give fear to the situation. A couple of months beforehand, two of the sons from this person’s family were killed by a suicide bomber. How much fear does a family have to show, if the death of family members isn’t enough? Their partner visa is still ongoing, and has been for more than 18 months. He still has no idea where the process of his wife’s visa is.
In Iran, minority groups are treated as lesser people. Not only are the Hazara being persecuted, but Christians are also being tortured and murdered. I have spoken to a number of those arriving by boat, who have been found to be Christians leaving Iran in terror. The Iranian government only accepts one religion, and all others must either convert, or be tortured and killed. Since they live in such terror, and permanent visas take an extraordinarily long time, the Christians have no choice but to leave. However, when they do leave they find out the hard way that there is no country between Iran and Australia that has signed the human rights conventions. They are forced to leave again and again, until they come to Australia.
Finally, I have become aware of one person who was targeted by a number of people in Pakistan. He was forced to attend court in Pakistan, where he was found guilty of blaspheme against Mohammed, and then let go in the community. From there, these same people are now allowed to target and torture this person, without any authorities stepping in.
Of course, if he tried to leave Pakistan, where would he go? All western countries, including and especially Australia, expect to see character references. Even if he could obtain such references from the Pakistani government, what would the Australian government say? Considering character is of such great importance, there is a great chance that his visa application would be refused, even though he did nothing wrong in accordance to any western government. Since this is such a sensitive issue, the evidence I have cannot be given to any authority, as then the person’s life would be in more danger than what it already is. How can we help a person such as this, who needs to leave to gain a peaceful existence without fear of persecution?
Permanent refugees in the community
Over the course of several years, a number of refugees have become permanent residents in Australia. I have met a number of Afghan nationals with permanent residence visas. Most of them either own a business, or are employed in business. They are learning English, although still have a long way to go. If circumstances changed and we were forced to live in the Middle East for any reason and learn a new language, we would fare far worse than these men have. In fact, this is exactly what the aboriginals faced –in their own country –when English settlers decided to settle on their land.
Even though a few of the men I have met do not work, they have the drive and capacity to want to work. I have connected with many different members of the community, and the one thing I found was that many with permanent visas have infinitely more ambition than many Australian citizens. Those with permanent refugee visas have a plan. They prove it in their very existence. They are so peaceful, they are averse to creating any drama in society. That is how appreciative they are of being given a second chance to live.
Not only this, but they are actually very successful as businessmen. They are thriving in our community, which means that they are some of the least burdensome for the Australian government. Few of them are on Centrelink benefits, and they all appear to be quite healthy.
Temporary refugees in the community
The visas are only for several months, which gives them little hope to even learn English properly. They become a burden to society, as can do nothing in order to become an asset to society. The conditions on their visa dictates this. Not only must abide by the conditions of being unable to work or study, but they now have to sign a code of conduct.
While the government wishes for these people to not have committed criminal acts (including traffic matters) what it does not understand is the extenuating circumstances that these people live in. As an example, child soldiers were forced into their position by perpetrators of mass atrocities. This code of conduct shows complete lack of understanding towards why a child would be forced to hold a gun. More research would have to be completed by the government, as these former child soldiers did commit murder, but under such extenuating circumstances that they should be given a proper chance for a new life.
Not only that, but mental illness becomes exacerbated with those on temporary visas. This has been proven, when an Afghan asylum seeker murdered his flatmate in Sydney, who was also an asylum seeker. The frustration is obvious, although not many in the community would understand. Obviously, the bridging visa was going to end shortly after this person committed this crime.
The people I have spoken to want desperately to become an asset. They wish to look for ways to positively give back to society, in a way that does not become a burden on the Australian government.
However, our government has decided to commit what can only be classified as financial domestic violence upon these people. To claim that they all want to do harm to our community, in order to perpetrate these human rights abuses is abysmal. According to the Human Rights Conventions, they have a right to feel as if they can become a peaceful asset to society, yet there appears to be a war against them, to the effect that they are not wanted in our society.
To tell the truth, no one even knows exactly who they are. Australia has now become too multicultural to even tell them apart in our society, and since they obey mostly all Australian laws, no one will know who they are.
Requirement of legal offshore permanent refugee visas
The 681 form clearly shows that there needs to be a ‘proposer’ in Australia in order for refugees to live in Australia. While I understand the benefits of refugees needing a proposer, the associations that could be used have advised that the refugees need to know someone here.
These are people who are not allowed in their country to speak to anyone. How can they find someone in another country, in order to be properly proposed? How can proper refugees, with UNHCR numbers, find a proposer in Australia in order to come here to be safe, when they don’t know anyone in Australia?
The 681 form needs to be amended to allow some minority groups to come to Australia without the need of a proposer. I have been advised by Red Cross Australia that, as soon as the refugee comes to Australia, they will be looked after by the Red Cross and other charity associations. Otherwise, they cannot propose anyone outside of Australia.
Not only this, but it is nearly impossible for these refugees to board a plane without a passport, even though they have UNHCR numbers. Every airport expects a person to have a passport, so how can refugees board a plane without one? Usually, they need money in order to bribe officials or to obtain a passport, false or otherwise. Many refugees do not have any money, as they have been placed in financial debt due to their circumstances.
Another critical aspect in relation to the offshore permanent humanitarian visas is the amount of time it takes for these visas to be considered. These people are in fear of their lives, so why does it take up to 3 years (and sometimes even longer) for visas to be considered, even with all proper paperwork? Then, more often than not, the visa is refused. This leads many to think that they may have a slight chance, only to have it dashed away by bureaucracy and red tape. It’s the reason why people decide to come here by boat –in all cases they are left with little chance, after being refused by everywhere else.
Financial capacity of Australia
In Australia, we all know that there is a debt. It has been drummed into us for quite some time, especially by the Coalition government shortly before and after election. We all know that there has been difficulty and everything has therefore been tightened by the new Coalition government. Australians in need have had to tighten their belts even further. I understand all of this and can see that the financial capacity of Australia is not the greatest in order to help every refugee in need.
However, there has been a great lack of understanding of refugees. These people have ambition and drive. Given the resources, they aren’t a burden on society, yet the belief is that they will be a great burden.
I have spoken to refugees. They have no wish to be seen as refugees. They want to add value to this society, considering they have never been allowed to add value to their own. This means that the financial capacity of Australia is not be burdened by refugees, if given the opportunity to work and study. Other groups in Australia are much more of a burden, especially those from low socio-economic areas such as the Mt Druitt area, as an example.
Considering I once lived next door to a house where the occupants were all Australian, the children never went to school and there was a question over whether bikie gangs were coming around to sleep with under-aged children and none of them worked in this house, this is a burden on our community. The mother had about seven children, all from different fathers. This has been the life of many in these low socio-economic areas, yet the general Australian outlook is that refugees act in similar ways.
I have also spoken to homeless people who are Australian citizens, and a number of them do not wish to be taken out of their circumstances. When I asked one homeless person in particular what plan he had in getting back on his feet, he told me he had no plans. He is probably going to die as a homeless person.
I have had many experiences, and spoken to many people from very different walks of life. Refugees have the most respect. Their greatest wish is to be an asset in the community, which is more than what I can say about many Australians who wish to only burden Centrelink for the whole of their lives. Refugees have no wish to be on Centrelink benefits. Given the chance, they won’t be.
So the burden that is placed on Australia from the refugees is solely due to the Australian government. It definitely isn’t from the refugees themselves. If the Australian government gave refugees permanent status, the burden will decrease significantly. The fear, and publicity, is due to fear coming from the Australian government.
Geographical capacity of Australia
Geographically, Australia is a very large country, with a tiny population. It is approximately as large as United States of America (USA), yet its population is as large as one or two of USA’s states in total. Not only this, but USA (and many other countries) is taking in many more refugees than Australia. The population of Australia is not growing as fast as what the statistics typically represent. At present, Australia only has approximately 23.5 million people today. Since the last census in 2011, it has grown by 2 million people. Even though that is the same amount in 2 years, as compared with the previous 5 years, with the correct infrastructure put into place, we can accept many more. For that, our government needs to look into the future, rather than present. We may not be a bottomless pit, but our pit has nowhere near touched the bottom.
We can handle many more people in our country. Bryce Courtenay, prior to his death, showed his disgust for the treatment of refugees in one of his final interviews. He also stated that Australia can accept up to double of its population. I agree with him.
General Australian bias
For the past 15 years, government have been publicising gross fallacies about refugees. After so much publicity, the public has decided to believe the fallacies. It does not help that this government has decided not to tell the public anything about what is happening to the refugees, or that they are acting like the refugees are not actually people.
The public believes implicitly that those refugees coming by boat are Muslim. They believe Muslims generate the violence in our community that is plastered all over the media. I think this philosophy is quite strange. The perpetrators of violence in our community are mainly Australian citizens. Their parents or grandparents probably came to Australia as refugees who did what they could to benefit society, but the perpetrators themselves were born here. So where does that lead the general Australian bias?
With fallacies of where the refugees come from and why they come to Australia. Tony Abbott himself wondered why they couldn’t go back to their own country. The reason why is because they would be killed. They are in genuine dire straits. They will not destroy our community, but would supplement it. They cannot stay in any other country on the way to Australia, as the human rights conventions have not been signed in those other countries.
Not only that, but the fallacy is that every refugee is going to Australia. In fact, it’s only a very small percentage. Many go to other countries, and consider other countries, before Australia. This is not advised to the Australian public by government anywhere. Australians implicitly believe that every single refugee is coming to Australia by boat, and that they will destroy the Australian fabric of life.
So the Australian government has done a wonderful job in destroying the capacity of Australians to feel human rights for people in desperate need.
These are people, not cargo. When someone flees extreme adversity, they don’t wish to stay in adversity. They wish to become an asset to their new society. In Australia at present, they are not given that opportunity, due to the ongoing negative publicity from our own government.
The belief of those in Australia is that refugees come here solely due to economic reasons and that they have enough money to live a good life, but wish to cause trouble in our community. That philosophy is put forward by the Australian government, who can’t even tell on face value who the refugees are.
They are not given the chance to shine in our community, yet they live in absolute fear in their own community. They want nothing but to live in peace and with security. It is the right of every person to want this., according to the human rights conventions created after the Holocaust and signed and implemented by Australia in the 1950s. They want nothing to do with extremist groups. In fact, they shy away from the Taliban and Al Qaeda, who believe implicitly that in order to go to paradise they need to kill Hazara and Christians.
We need to therefore do more for asylum seekers. We need to show them that human rights do in fact exist and they are not ignored. We also need to show Australians that they are wrong to think that permanent residents will commit crimes in Australia. They have proven not to, no matter how much fear they hold in their own countries. They need to be taken off the bridging visas that they are presently on, as this is destroying their capacity for mental wellness.
We also need to understand that many of those coming by boat are doing so with very limited funds. Our community is mainly Christian. We need to show our Christian values, and allow Christians and others who are from minority groups to come to Australia in order to live.
It doesn’t matter if they come by boat or by plane. Our ancestors came by boat. They had little choice but to come by boat, as planes did not exist at the time.
Not only that, but the wait time for refugee visas is so lengthy, some who have applied can be killed before the visa is granted. These people need to be given their visa in an infinitely shorter time period. They desperately need to know whether they have a visa so they can have an actual life. By putting so much red tape onto these visas, lives are endangered.
Australia is breaching human rights by behaving in the manner it is at present.
By giving a helping hand to the Hazara and Christians (as well as other minority groups being persecuted) , not only will our community be enriched, but all will win, both domestically and internationally. That way, the UN won’t be demanding answers all the time, as they are right now.
Basically, what I am saying is this – be Christian, as you are killing your own kind.