Image: Fahim, an Hazara person who fled Afghanistan. Credit: Ursula Skjonnemand.

As the federal election nears, public debate about how Australia responds to asylum seekers is growing louder and more impassioned, dominated by dollar figures, statistics and concern that there may be terrorists among arrivals.

Publicly and privately some people are asking ‘why do asylum seekers come here?’ and ‘what do they contribute?’.

Behind the rhetoric there are real people. Here are some of their answers.

Saba Abraham was a freedom fighter in her homeland of Eritrea in the Horn of Africa but was forced to flee. She arrived in Australia in late 1992 and is the founder of the Eritrean Women and Family Support Network and Mu’ooz restaurant, which employs disadvantaged women.Video by Ellie Freeman. 

Pacifique Gakindi fled Rwanda in 2000 because there was war, insecurity and a lack of human rights and he wanted a better future for his children. It took almost three years for Pacifique to be accepted into Australia on a humanitarian visa. He became the first president of the Rwandan Association of Queensland and is in his fourth year of a social work degree.

Sujauddin Karimuddin fled Burma in 1998. He is a Rohingya who had been targetted because he spoke out against the ruling military regime, which denied Rohingyas citizenship. It took Sujauddin almost eight years to be accepted into Australia. 11 of his friends died in their bid to escape Burma. He considers himself one of the lucky few.

Fahim is an Hazara man who fled Afghanistan because of the country’s political problems, but moreso because his life was in danger simply because of his ethnicity. His journey to Australia took almost two and a half years and included two failed boat trips organised by smugglers and a six month jail sentence. Fahim now speaks at schools and events, volunteers and participates in community forums.

The Lantern Parade Walk for Refugees will happen tonight in South Brisbane in the lead up to World Refugee Day on the 20th of June. Bookings for the parade can be made here.

More information on Refugee Week events can be found here.

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported.

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