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Refugees should be welcomed with dignity and respect by Australia

Australian government violating international refugee accords
Shiko Zaher
Sunday 16 May 2010

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“How can…Politicians, who have families of their own, whom they love; be so indifferent when it comes to the sufferings of other human beings?” By Jose Ramos Horta, 2nd President of East Timor, who lived in exile in Australia from 1975-1999.

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 and have lived through pain, miseries and uncertainty as the future looked no better or brighter than the dark and dismal past. 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 daily bases. I come from a place where people have bore the brunt of the international power play during the cold war and beyond, a land that, with every passing year, recedes another decade into the abyss of the past, a land whose people have nowhere to go and nowhere to hide.

Friends, next federal election is just around the corner and yet again, in an election year in Australia, refugees’ rights and status are being pushed into question and brushed aside. Refugees arriving by boat make up only a very small fraction of all the immigration but the spin doctors are having a hay day, playing on people’s insecurities and the refugees’ helplessness.

Article 14 of the Human Rights Declaration states and I quote:

"Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution. This right may not be invoked in the case of persecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations."

The recent decision by the Australian federal government to halt processing of the application of Afghan Hazara and Tamil refugees is in direct violation of this declaration, one to which Australia is a signatory. For those who follow the news and are aware of the ground realities, it is obvious that the conditions in both countries are such that if the individuals are returned back, they will not be heard from or about. More than a few of the refugee returned from Nauru are dead as an indirect consequence of them being left no choice but to gamble with their lives, and many have paid dearly.

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 is a farce setup mainly by Islamist warlords responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands and it has for some time been gradually assimilating fundamentalist Taliban into its ranks - a sham that has become so obvious that Karzai refers to the Taliban as his brethren, his children; and has threatened to join their ranks. Furthermore, his brother and cronies lead one of the biggest drug cartels in the world.

Shiite Family Law, known as rape law by the human rights activists is an example of the "legal reform" Kevin Rudd’s Government refers to. This law, which completely goes against the human rights and human dignity, was the result of political bargaining between Karzai and his team of religious fanatics as they sought to legalise marital rape, child marriage and gender apartheid, in particular; the Hazara women. (Additionally, the free press are constantly threatened and censored as official government acts— in particular the blocking of KabulPress.org by the Afghan government this year.—ed.)

The question arises, how can the Australian government ignore an issue this serious, even though it’s clear that the peoples of Afghanistan have always been the victims of war, terror, genocide and persecution. There has been extensive coverage of these issues and related events on the media, so it’s hard to believe anyone could be unaware that these countries have been and are still being ruled by corrupt systems, warlords, religious extremists and human rights violators.

There are many places in Afghanistan that are completely ruled by the Taliban and their al-Qaeda partners, there is also a significant number of foreign armies in direct conflict with the Taliban. This leads to a very unstable society, therefore Afghans do not feel safe and secure under the Karzai administration, who being the president and claiming his role to be a leader of peacekeeping and peacemaking in Afghanistan, chooses to elect governors of various districts, that the observers and media suggest maybe in link with Taliban.

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? Why are our young men and women being put in danger? Why should the families of our soldiers suffer the grief and worry if the government is telling us that Afghanistan has “improved circumstances”? Why?

Friends, the fabric of our nation is such the vast majority of us come from refugee stock whether our parents, grandparents and forebears came due to poverty, war, famine, diseases and more. We have made a nation that should be the most tolerant, open and welcoming to all refugees. Let’s reaffirm our will to support refugees in their moment of despair, such as stated in the second verse of the Australian National Anthem, “For those who’ve come across the seas, we’ve boundless plains to share”.

My name is Shiko Zaher,currently living in Australia and migrated like most of my Afghan brothers and sisters from Quetta city of Pakistan. I have just finished High school and planning to attend Uni in the following year. One of my favorite saying about human race is "You and I may disagree that a piece of wood is orange or red and that’s ok, but we can agree that it is a piece of wood. And maybe we can forget what color the piece of wood is and just repaint it so that half is red and the other half is orange"

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