AROUND 250 people attended a Sydney rally in April calling on the government to “unfreeze the visas and close Christmas Island”, called by the Refugee Action Coalition. Here we print excerpts from the speeches of two Afghan refugees who addressed the rally.
Abdullah Karim, Afghan refugee, who was detained in Curtin
“As a former refugee living under Temporary Protection Visa and locked up in Curtin detention Centre, I thought no refugees will be a state of limbo after John Howard dark years has passed. However, John Howard has gone, but his policy appear[s] to be coming back.
I have to say that I was surprised to hear that government announced a halt on refugees from Afghanistan and Sri Lanka and [that] Curtin detention Centre is going to be reopened. I was there. I spent in Curtin for about five months.
I can remember Curtin being a place that accommodated between 800 and 900 refugees, women and children, in crowded accommodation. I was in the thick of riots and despair people felt. I could not see other than razor wires. I saw women and children being locked up without having done anything wrong than to seek protection.
Curtin was a place with not adequate medical equipment, no recreational facilities for young and children. Detainees saw no compassion from the government. [They] thought everybody is against them, the politicians; the media—except people like you who come on the street. I have to say when there was demonstration like this people in the camp revived and became hopeful that there is support available in the community.
Today, I think by coming here, you give to those people a voice and hope.
The Australian government claims that Afghanistan situation is safe now or at least be safer in the next six months. I provide you a snapshot of Afghanistan being unsafe and this indicates why people are leave Afghanistan.
Just last Wednesday, the Pentagon released a report covering six months. The report concludes that out of 121 districts, only 29 support the Karzai government and the rest are sympathetic to insurgency.
The level of violence is higher as reported by the Pentagon.
In 2009, the most horrendous law [was] signed legislation that strip Afghan women of basic human rights. Under this law that passed in Parliament and [was] signed by Hamid Karzai women are treated as sex objects. It effectively legalises marital rape.
In the post-Taliban time, what the US and its allies did [was] bring to power the warlords who violated human rights in the past and continue to do so. Many of them control local government areas, provinces and hold seats in parliaments.
Hazaras [are still] the most persecuted ethnic group in Afghanistan—by the current Afghan government and the Taliban.”
Shiko Zaher, 18-year-old daughter of an Afghan refugee
“Refugees should be welcomed with dignity and respect on the Australian Land.
Friends, it has been said that East to West, home is the best. When home can no longer provide shelter, can longer protect you and your family, when home becomes hell; fleeing is no longer an option but an act of despair to save yourself and your loved ones. I have been a refugee. I come from a land where the powerful speak and dictate through the barrel of the gun, where the gangs cash in on drugs, where being a woman is a crime, where minorities are shot and killed on sight on a daily basis.
Refugees arriving by boat make up only a very small fraction of all the immigration but the spin doctors are playing on people’s insecurities and the refugees’ helplessness.
The recent decision by the federal government to halt processing of the application of Afghan Hazara and Tamil refugees is in direct violation of this declaration [article 14 UN Human Rights Declaration], to which Australia is a signatory. For those who follow the news and are aware of the realities, it is obvious that the conditions in both countries are such that if the individuals are returned, they will not be heard from or about. More than a few of the refugees returned from Nauru are dead as a direct consequence of them being left no choice but to gamble with their lives.
The Australian government’s appealing phrases ‘durable security’ and ‘improved circumstances’ are the inappropriate terms used for the current situation in Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. The so-called democratic establishment [in Afghanistan] is…a sham that has become so obvious that Karzai refers to the Taliban as his brethren…and has threatened to join their ranks. Furthermore, his brother and cronies lead one of the biggest drug cartels in the world.
If according to Australian government, Afghanistan is ‘evolving’ or has ‘improved circumstances’, why are Australian soldiers being sent in large numbers to various unsafe parts of Afghanistan?”