The Vinnies House of Welcome at Kilburn has been inundated with mainly Hazara refugees wanting to know how they can get family members out of Afghanistan. Some of them are caught in the chaos outside the Kabul airport, others are hiding in their homes in the capital city and Taliban-held regions.
“We are continuing to have a stream of people coming and asking us how we can help them get their families out,” said Mary Ireland, coordinator of the Vinnies Refugee and Asylum Seeker Service which runs the House of Welcome.
“They don’t know how their families are, where they are, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get into Kabul airport, people are being hurt and killed and word on the ground is that the borders to Iran and Pakistan have been closed.”
Lawyer Sr Mary Symonds RSM said she was trying to assist the asylum seekers but anyone on a Temporary Protection Visa or Safe Haven Protection Visa was not able to apply to bring their families here.
“They are terrified for them,” she said.
“Some of the temporary visa holders are encouraging their families to apply for humanitarian visas whilst in Afghanistan but time will tell if they will be granted once Immigration realise they have family members here in Australia on temporary protection visas and have been told they will never settle here and cannot bring their families here.
“What have these people done to receive such inhumane treatment from our government and from Immigration?”
Mohammad has a wife, five daughters and two sons living in Afghanistan.
He used to work as a security guard in the village school in Ghazni but when the Taliban took control of the town he and his colleague were arrested and tied to a tree while the Taliban fired at the school.
“When they left, the people from the village rescued us,” Mohammad told The Southern Cross.
“But I was afraid to go out, I was just staying in my home all the time so I decided to come to Australia.”
The 59 year old said his family had fled their home in Ghazni and were living in a house “in very poor condition” and were too scared to go out.
“If they go out the Taliban will get them because they are ladies,” he said.
“They (the Taliban) want to use Hazaras for their needs.”
Mohammad came to Australia by boat nine years ago and in the first few years he had “a lot of hope” that his family would join him. But year after year his application for a permanent visa was ignored.
“I just want to see my family safe, every day I go to see my doctor because I am so stressed,” he said.
Mohammad’s doctor sent a letter to Sr Mary to ask what his patient’s options are because of the impact on his mental health.
Employed by a car spare parts business, he is confident he could support his family if they came here, particularly as some of the older children would be able to work.
“All I want is for the Government to help my family to come over here because of their safety, because I am a father of five daughters and I want to see them happy, not miserable with an unknown future,” he said.
Sadiq Sarwari was 18 when he came to Australia from northern Pakistan. “My mum sent me here, she thought I might get killed and she sold everything she could and saved the money to send me here, she is a very strong lady,” he said.
The Hazara family had fled Afghanistan when he was only two but then faced increasing violence and bombings in Quetta, Pakistan.
After a traumatic boat journey he was placed in detention on Christmas Island and Darwin, but was assessed as a genuine refugee.
Sadiq said he had hoped that he could bring his mother and younger siblings here but in 2012 the Federal Government halted permanent resettlement and the young Afghani has remained on a temporary visa.
After working in aged care and then a bakery in Adelaide, he bought his own bakery on Magill Road.
“I work very hard, almost 20 hours every day,” he said.
“If my family came here they could work in the business – that is my wish. If that happens, I’m happy.”
Sadiq said there was “no safe place for Hazaras” in Afghanistan or northern Pakistan.
“They think if they kill Hazaras, they will go to paradise, that’s their mentality, that’s why they won’t allow Hazaras to get into the airport (Kabul) at the moment,” he said.
Fatemeh is a Hazara woman whose sister was killed last month in a bomb blast in Afghanistan. Now her brother and nephew, who have been working with the military, are receiving threats from the Taliban and are trying to leave Afghanistan.
Aziza has a photo of her sister with a bruised arm where she had been struck by the Taliban when they came to her house in Kabul looking for her brother who left a few weeks ago and is now in England.
There are more than 4200 Afghan refugees currently in Australia on temporary protection visas.
Justice for Refugees SA (JRS) has called on the Federal Government to immediately place a moratorium on all deportations and forced returns of Afghan nationals.
“Because temporary visas are subject to applications for renewal, we urge the Australian Government to create a pathway to permanent residency for all those on precarious temporary visas,” JRS chair Rev Sandy Boyce said.
Church and community leaders have also called on the government to increase its intake of humanitarian places to 20,000 and to enable family reunions for Afghan people living in Australia.
Catholic Alliance for People Seeking Asylum urged people to send a letter to their local MP via its website www.capsa.org.au/Afghanistan and sign a petition at www.actionforafghanistan.com.auJump to next article