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Refugee freedom walker urges decision-makers to provide much-needed hope for refugee children this World Humanitarian Day

Media Release

This World Humanitarian Day, refugee freedom walker Neil Para is calling upon decision-makers to provide an amnesty for all 10,000 refugees still waiting for visas so that all refugee children living in Australia have hope and certainty for the future.

On Saturday, Neil reaches the halfway mark of 500km on his 1000km refugee freedom walk. He is walking on behalf of 10,000 refugees who, after 10 challenging years, are still waiting for permanent visas.

That number includes 2,000 families with children, including many children born here in Australia. Despite having lived and grown up in the community, attended school and having dreams just like their Australian friends, these children are not free to follow their hearts and dreams or enjoy their rights.

The lack of permanent visas has a devastating ongoing impact for parents and children, as well as for families who are not able to reunite.

“Lack of certainty has a devastating impact on all refugees. For families, like my wife Sugaa and our three daughters, it is heart-breaking to see that the children we came to Australia to protect are restricted from working and going to university.”

“I call on Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Immigration Minister Andrew Giles to allow refugee children to grow up, follow their dreams, and contribute to the Australian community – just like all other children in Australia. Please provide an amnesty so that all refugees, including families with children, can work, study, build and plan for the future.”

Speaking on The Project on Sunday, 15-year-old Nivash (Neil and Sugaa’s eldest daughter) shared how upsetting it is to see how the lack of certainty about the family’s future affects her parents, who are not able to work to provide for the family.

Nivash also cannot work part-time like her friends, nor can she follow her dreams of studying to become a cardiac surgeon. Nivash has made an emotional plea asking Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to meet with Neil at the end of his 1000km walk.

In her second letter to the Prime Minister asking for help she wrote “I don’t really understand politics, but I know what you are doing to my family is unjust and I just hope you find it in your heart to help this family of 5 you’ve been tormenting for the past 10 years.”

Neil and Sugaa’s second daughter, 13-year-old Kartie, is in the same situation. Nive, who was born in Australia, was granted citizenship and a Medicare card when she turned 10.

Throughout Neil’s walk, refugee families have shared heartbreaking stories of the mental health toll of not being able to work and build a life for their children and contribute to a better Australia.

Close family friend and supporter, Shae Duggan said, “It has been heartbreaking to watch the effect of this ongoing cruelty on the Para family over eight years. The girls know nothing else but Australian life, they see themselves as no different to their peers and yet our government withholds any type of future for them. It’s incredibly damaging for these children. The Ballarat people have welcomed this family, they are Ballarat people now and they have shown that they deserve a future here.”

The negative impact of prolonged visa insecurity on refugee families in Australia has been well documented. Visa insecurity leads to poorer mental health outcomes for mothers and children, causing heightened mental anguish for parents. Key factors of a lack of certainty, ongoing trauma resulting from detention, family separation and restrictions on freedom have a long-term mental health toll for parents, with enormous effects on children’s wellbeing.

Neil is calling for permanent visas so that children are not left behind. He is asking that:

  1. Children born in Australia should have the same rights as other Australian children.
  2. All children who have attended Australian schools should be given Australian citizenship or permanent residency with a pathway to become Australian citizens.
  3. All remaining refugees living in Australia should be included in the permanent visas process announced by Andrew Giles on February 13, 2023.

Neil is 500km into a 1000km refugee freedom walk to Prime Minister Albanese’s electorate office in Sydney to raise awareness of the plight of refugees especially those with no visas or visas that don’t give them certainty for their future. Neil’s invitation to meet with Prime Minister Albanese has not yet had a response.

Sign the petition here.


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1 comment

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  1. Harry Lime

    It’s rather telling that no one has commented on this media release,we need to get behind this push,this family has been hung out to dry by a vicious, unconscionable policy…basically pacifying the bigots who vote.,and they are merely one example.They need people of conscience to imagine themselves in the same situation.This must be dealt with,it won’t go away and it is certain to get worse.

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