How can we allow this to continue?March 3, 2021
I write this to remind people of the ongoing ill-treatment by our government of asylum seekers coming to Australia.
Some years ago, I spent time on Christmas Island as a Pastoral Care worker for people arriving by boat seeking asylum. There I heard the story of an intelligent young man from one of the Middle Eastern countries who had had to flee his country because of persecution. Since then we have continued to keep in touch. The following is an excerpt from his most recent letter. I have redacted some bits and pieces so that he cannot be identified.
……You know that I lived in Australia for 8 years, and sought asylum. During this period of time I have been on a bridging visa E (BVE). For 3 years of my first BVE, I did not have any work rights and then I was granted a BVE with work rights.
I hope everyone knows what are the conditions of BVE. Let me mention some of them: The right to work is granted for 3 months on BVE and employers must check the updated conditions for work rights every 3 months consecutively. As well as this, my BVE clearly stated that this person is waiting for a decision in federal court and if his appeal is refused or rejected, he/she must leave Australia in 24 days (I think). My question is which engineering company employs an engineer with these conditions? Honestly no chance to get a professional job with a BVE.
My case was rejected by the case officer for only one reason. The reason given was “I am not satisfied” ,… Unfortunately I did not have a lawyer to protect me. I appealed to federal court in September 2017 and since then my claim has not been scheduled for a date.
So far, this was the dark page of my life and let me tell you about the rest:
I have had many jobs in Australia such as cleaner, gardener, fruit picking in farms, automotive dismantler, dish washer, chef assistant, commercial painter and finally some professional jobs as data scientist and simulation consultant when I was student at (name withheld) university. Not only I tried to survive but also thrive in Australian society. I graduated with a Master of science from (name withheld) university and I gained some work experience in Australian and International companies. After my graduation I started to apply for a job and in a 2 month period I was invited for an interview by more than 10 companies but there was no interest when they heard about my BVE visa. I could not continue with a job and I had no hope to continue.
Then I started to think about applying for a job and residency in other countries. I applied for a PhD fellow research position in (name deleted) and after 3 interviews I was selected. I got my 3 year visa and I started a new life in (this country). Now I am working as a PhD researcher and everyone respects me as a human being. After 2 years more, I will be eligible to apply for permanent residency.
I ended the punishment the Australian government has used on me as a boat arrival. I do not come back to Australia and I never even think to visit Australia. …….I still believe there are some Australians who like refugees and asylum seekers and fight Australian government to release them from detention…..
This is one man’s story, but it could be replicated by thousands of other asylum seekers across our country. Some of our elected representatives (with the exception of our Indigenous brothers and sisters), like me, have ancestors who were fleeing from persecution, in their country of origin, and came to Australia for a safer life. Had this happened today, they would have been excluded from work rights or be sent to Manus Island or Nauru with no hope of getting permanent residency in our country.
It seems to me that, as a country, we are continuing the kind of persecution from which many asylum seekers have fled. This young man could has made a great contribution to our country’s economy and our society. However, he is fortunate enough to have found another country who have recognised the contribution he could make and he is now the beneficiary of its welcome.
My question is:
How can we as Australians allow this kind of ill-treatment by our government to continue in our name? There has to be better solutions for people seeking asylum than what is currently being meted out.
Pat Wood RSM
Member of the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea
The Institute is a member of the Refugee Council of Australia – Click here for more information