Refugee Stories

Valuable stories can also be read in the report from the People’s Inquiry into Detention, and submissions to the Senate Enquiry

For the first report of The People’s Inquiry into Detention. Go to

Another source are the Submissions to the Senate Committee on the Migration Amendment Bill 2006.
Submissions can be viewed at

Submission 53 from Elaine Smith is up on our website as a web page and tells of the detention centres in Nauru at the time. (many photos)
See also: \rac\news_archive\newsletter_08June2006.html

Refugee stories
Mortezza Poorvadi was born in Iran to an Iraqi mother — a source of constant persecution for Mortezza’s family. Read, or listen to this interview on Queensland ABC. (March 2007)

A letter from one of the Vietnamese who came in the Hao Kiet and were detained on Christmas Island.

Naina’s story: the daily life of a child in detention.

The Sarwari Family – a family wrongfully targeted by DIMIA”s “Pakistani Paranoia.”

Report on Baxter Detention Centre Visits – Jane Keogh of the Canberra Refugee Action Committee tells the stories of some of the people she met in the Government’s new detention centre in South Australia.

Akbar’s story – from The Age. His father sold his truck to buy his escape from the Taliban. He ended up a prisoner on Nauru. ” I thought Australians had a love of humanity, but they smashed my dreams.”

Denada’s journey – the story of Denada, who fled from Kosovo and ended up in Villawood. “Denada came to Australia for a better life but here she lost everything, she tells me. She lost her freedom, her identity, her family and friends, her birthplace and home.” Written by Rosa Brown.

The Place where God Died – the story of Gyzele, from Kosovo. “In Port Hedland the guards came into our rooms at night, waking everybody to see our identification tags. They would flash their torches and yell our numbers, as though we were dogs. Now the children wake up in the night screaming, thinking that the guards are by their beds.” Written by Melanie Poole.

Mother pleads for her son’s release – An Iranian nurse pleads for the release of her seven-year old son from Woomera.

Not welcome“Although they knew little of Australia both men remembered an Australian film they had seen about a man who found an animal in the wilderness and cared for it. From this they had gained the impression that Australians were kind. Later they would ruefully remember the film when the guards at the Woomera Detention Centre taunted them …”

Where are the queues? “He’s a graduate of Adelaide University in dry land agriculture – one would think he would be an ideal immigrant to this country … He fled the Taliban regime to Pakistan, as I am told, and despite almost a decade applying for refugee status, he has been continually refused …” – Peter Andren MHR

Children from the camps – Stories from Australian Detention Centres 2002. “…deeply traumatised, Faisal stopped eating and drinking. In the end, he stopped talking. He was hospitalised eight times before being placed in a foster home – separated from his family against all the advice of the medical team … the foster family were unable to cope.”

Rahim – a medical doctor, jailed by the Taliban, has now asked to be repatriated to Afghanistan rather than “die slowly” in detention in Australia.

Sari – “When her labour pains started, two Australasian Correctional Management guards escorted her to hospital … Her husband was not allowed near her the whole time she was in hospital. The two guards were present throughout her hospital stay.”

Mahboba Rawi – working tirelessly to improve the situation of her own people in Afghanistan and in the Pakistan refugee camps.

Further reading

The Aladdin Sisalem True Survivor Show – by Mary La Rosa. The story of Aladdin Sisalem, the last solitary detainee on Manus Island.

An Iranian family we recently worked with – story on the website of the Hotham Mission Asylum Seekers’ Project in Melbourne. In our work with Asylum Seekers there are constant ups and downs. There is good news and bad news. We certainly learn to “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep”. We form relationships with individuals and families and are thrilled when they are granted a visa, even a temporary one. On the other hand often the news is bad and we have to prepare ourselves and the family for the inevitable return, to what?

Put Yourself in Their Shoes – three talks given by Afghani asylum seekers at the Aboriginal Catholic Ministry (Adelaide, SA)’s Otherway Centre. “Perhaps this will help you understand why — even though the Taliban have gone — we are still not sure of the future of our people in our own country.”

Perilous Journeys – stories of some of the victims of the SIEV X sinking; from the Jesuit magazine Eureka Street.

“As the children of a ‘new Australian’, we knew nothing of Dad’s early life or his epic trek until he prepared to return to Burma for the first time in 1982. Only then did he begin to tell the moving story of his boyhood adventures. He does not dwell on the past. Yet whenever he is asked how he would describe himself, Dad always shrugs lightly and says, ‘I am a refugee. That’s what I am.'”A review of Colin McPhedran’s refugee story White Butterflies by Magella Blinksell.

Iraqis in Australia – Transcript of the ABC Radio National Encounter program of 16 February 2002:. “Since the 1991 Gulf War, thousands of Iraqis have found refuge in Australia. This Encounter is a re-broadcast of Margaret Coffey’s AUSTCARE Award-winning program about that flood of refugees who finally made it to Australia. Saddam Hussein looms so large that, in a way, he renders the Iraqi people invisible. They are a culturally and ethnically rich mix with a history that resounds through the story of Western civilisation. Their stories are often terrible and they go on year after year fearing for their people in Iraq.”

Scattered people – from the Brisbane Stories website: ” a photo documentary .. telling the story of three families and their plight as refugee claimants.” There is a music CD (hear a sample on the website, and order online).

It took 13 months for my application to be accepted by Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs (DIMA) but now it can take any amount of time. I think most people can handle around 6 months of waiting but after 12 months people have obvious depression, and after 2 years most people suffer permanent depression and damage to their mental well being. It is my observation, that if you can survive the fear, uncertainty, lack of recognition, and rejection from the department and other parts of society, you must be very strong. But even if you survive, you still suffer some permanent damage.. . . I had no choice but to come to Australia, it was the only valid visa I had, it was the only place I could go. Legally I was stuck with it. We are not queue jumpers – we are struggling with our lives. (refugee from China, quoted on the Scattered People website)

Stories on the Brisbane Refugee & Asylum Seeker Health Network website.

Cheikh Kone: the case of detainee number NBP451 By Arnold Zable, The Age, June 4 2002.

Long Journey, Young Lives – children in detention and how they get there, an ABC online special.

Strangers on the Shore ABC television’s Compass program on 16 June 2002 was about Australian immigrants from three different eras: a post-World War Two Jewish Family; two groups of Vietnamese boat people; and more recently an Afghani artist and an Iraqi scientist.

The Road to Refuge – from the BBC. “This special report tells the stories behind the statistics, using first-person testimonies and in-depth interviews to trace the journey from home into exile. It asks why refugees are still fleeing, where they go, and examines how we treat them.”

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