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A tale of two refugees

  • 20 June 2016


'Mr Kerry, I am so tired of all this.' 'Mustafa' (not his real name) was expressing his frustration and despair at his situation — not an uncommon experience I find.

He is an asylum seeker and we are working on his case together. I think his case is a good one. He is a middle class Iraqi from Baghdad who fled because of the extreme violence there a few years ago. He was in Dubai for a few years before coming to Australia to do his postgraduate study.

He is too afraid to return to Iraq after what he experienced there. He could not stay in Dubai as the UAE is not a signatory to the refugee convention, so he needed to find somewhere else to go. He applied for visas and was able to get a student visa for Australia to improve his skills with postgraduate study.

Mustafa speaks very good English, and his professional skills are going to help him get work in Australia. He is not going to take an 'Australian's job' — he will work and contribute to the economy, as we all try to do. His education and work experiences will be valuable to pass on to new workers in his profession.

He is only at the start of the process here, but his story of fleeing sectarian militias and gangs in Baghdad goes back several years. He can recall the kidnapping he endured, his fears he would be killed, and the need for his family to raise thousands in cash to free him.

Many Baghdadi people paid ransoms for the release of their relatives only to have to see their relative at the morgue. Mustafa was lucky — he was released.

Mustafa is also 'lucky' because he has a good case as a refugee, and his skills and English mean he will find work and settle in fairly quickly. The best thing is he gets a permanent visa, not a temporary protection visa, because he did not come on a boat, but by air on a student visa with his wife and son.

The situation for 'Ali' is far less certain. He came on a boat three to four years ago after being registered and approved as a refugee by the UNHCR in Indonesia. He saw no movement in resettlement from Indonesia so he came to Australia. He is now one of the thousands who, if they can prove their refugee