Hazara asylum seeker Khadim Dai fled to Indonesia to escape the Taliban, in fear for his life.Khadim, who was found to be a genuine refugee by the UNHCR and is living in Indonesia until he is resettled in another country, featured in the recent Fairfax Media multimedia series Frontiers of Hope.He agreed to participate in a Q&A session about the life of a refugee on The Age’s Facebook page on Monday night.
What happened next highlights the state of the asylum seeker debate in Australia…
Many readers were sympathetic to Khadim’s ordeal…
Khadim, who is part of the persecuted Hazara ethnic minority in Afghanistan, fled to Pakistan with his family when he was a child.
He left Pakistan in 2013 when a bomb went off near his school. It killed 126 people, including his classmate.
“They also shot four of [my] close friends,” Khadim said. “I felt I had no choice. Either I stay and get killed or I leave and maybe find a new safe country.”
He is now waiting in Indonesia for the UNHCR to find him a country.
Many readers did weigh into the discussion to express their dismay at the hostile Facebook comments, apologising to Khadim and saying he would be a welcome addition to Australia:
But this didn’t stop comments such as…
So we asked an expert to set the record straight…
Why asylum seekers can’t stay in Indonesia is a question often asked of David Manne, the executive director of the Refugee and Immigration Legal Centre.
“Indonesia is not a signatory to the refugee convention and does not provide humane treatment or protection to refugees,” he says. Refugees cannot legally work in Indonesia, their children cannot attend local schools and they are at risk of being deported.
“They are confined to a life of despair, destitution and danger on the margins.”
In a column in Fairfax Media this week, former immigration minister Amanda Vanstone points out there is a difference between refugees “literally camping” in another country and eking out an existence with such help as the UNHCR can provide, and countries such as Australia “that actually make a space in their immigration program for refugees.”
So why did Khadim choose Australia at all?
Khadim says he would like to come to Australia because he has family there but is happy to live in any country that is safe. It is the role of the UNHCR to find a third country that will resettle him.
The Refugee Council of Australia says countries that happen to be closest to a refugee’s country or origin or which are easiest for refugees to reach are not necessarily countries which are able or willing to provide effective protection.
“In the Asia-Pacific region, for example, few countries provide effective protection to refugees and conditions for people seeking protection are very difficult,” the council says.
“Many countries in the region have no domestic asylum process and restrict access to asylum processes offered by UNHCR. People seeking protection are typically unable to work legally, own or rent property, access health care or send their children to school.”