Pacific Solution no solution for Hazaras

By Keyhan Farahmand

Ali* is a man living in limbo. There is nowhere, he can call home, and he is living in Millburn on a bridging visa, with an unknown future. He is a Hazara asylum seeker, originally from Afghanistan, but he was living in Pakistan, before he came to Australia. Since 2009 Hazara people were not targeted only in Afghanistan, they were also targets in Pakistan, and they flee Pakistan too. He escaped from Pakistan in 2012 and arrived in Australia after the reintroduction of the Pacific Solution by Julia Gillard’s government.  Ali was in detention on Christmas Island when his 17-year-old daughter was killed in Hazara town’s bomb blast in 16 February 2013.

Australia signed the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, in 22 January 1954; And Australia is one of the important partners of UNHCR. Since that Australia is destination of many asylum seeker around the world, particularly from Middle East, central Asia, (especially from Afghanistan) and Africa. But in 1998 Asylum seeker issue started to become a controversial topic in Australia.

The Norwegian ship MV Tampa rescued 439 Afghan asylum seekers from international waters. Captain Arne Rinnan attempted to dock at Christmas Island but was refused entry into Australian waters by Prime Minister John Howard, who insisted the passengers must land elsewhere and sent the SAS onto the container. This resulted in a diplomatic dispute between Australia, Norway, and Indonesia and global media coverage. The asylum seekers were eventually loaded onto a Royal Australian Navy vessel, and were transported to detention centres in Nauru as part of what became known as the Pacific Solution.

Most Afghan asylum seekers who were sent to Nauru were Hazara,  one of the most persecuted people in the world. Mohammad* was one of the Hazara asylum seekers who were on Tampa and spent one and half years on the island. “There was no hope, Australia was not going to accept us, and we didn’t have any other option,” he said.  “The only thing we could was, to go back home.”

Mohammad went back to Afghanistan but was forced to leave again. His wife and two children, aged 5 and 7, were living illegally in Iran as asylum seekers.  He went to Iran but stayed there for only three months.  Iran was not a good place for him. He was arrested by Iranian official Authority and they sent him into detention. Finally he left his family behind and, came back to Afghanistan. This time he had no choice to where else must go.

In the end of 2008 Mohammad left Afghanistan again and this time he went to Pakistan. Ultimately, he came to Indonesia and came to Australia trough UNHCR’s program from Indonesia.  He described Nauru as hell, and remembered the cruelty of Australia’s government and its attitude towards people who need protection.

The Pacific Solution first introduced in September 1, 2001 by John Howard’s government, and reintroduced by Julia Gillard’s government on 14 August 2012. As part of the Pacific Solution, since august 2012 thousands of asylum seekers were sent to Manus Island and Nauru, and ten thousands other are released with bridging visa, with an unknown futures. 

“It is difficult that you do not know what will happen to you and what would be your destiny.  We are the people who have no choice and it was the only option that we have. Because of this reason we put ourselves in danger and take boat to reached Australia,” Ali said.  On 18 February 2014 asylum seekers protested in Manus Island, which case one death (Raza Barati) and 77 injuries.
*Names have been changed

Featured image: No safety – Hazara people are targets in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Photo: Daniel Schmidt, ABC Open producer/CC/flickr

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