Ahmad Zahir Azizi is a free man after spending eight years in detention.
Below: Iranian asylum seeker Hamed Khademi says he will continue fighting for detainees still locked up.
SBS NEWS, 15 NOVEMBER 2021
Afghan asylum seeker Ahmad Zahir Azizi said he still can’t believe that he is no longer a detainee. After so many years in detention, he said he had thought “my whole life I was going to stay in detention”.
He is one of four men detained across Melbourne’s Park Hotel and MITA who have been granted a bridging visa allowing them to live in the community, but with little economic support. Their release comes after mounting pressure on the government to release detainees after a COVID-19 outbreak spread at Park Hotel.
After five years in Nauru and three years in MITA, Iranian Hamed Khademi says the release is bittersweet as his heart remains with detainees that are still locked up.
“I can’t explain how I feel. After nine years they’ve released me but I still have friends in detention,” the 27-year-old said. “I’ve got a visa but they don’t and we’re like a family, living together for nine years… you have to keep fighting for the others.”
The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre says 85 refugees and asylum seekers remain in onshore immigration detention facilities. Since December 2020 nearly 180 detainees have been released into the community on bridging visas.
SUNDAY 28 NOVEMBER
BUDDIES BREAK-UP CHRISTMAS PARTY
11:30am, Cotton Tree Park, Maroochydore (look for the BUDDIES flags)
BYO picnic goodies & chairs. Bring a plate to share.
(There are BBQs there for those who wish to use them).
Come join in the fun & games – and meet some new folk.
NOTE: In light of the forecast for wet weather on Sunday we still intend to go ahead with our plans, but it may be wise to bring along your own marquees or umbrellas.
Hoping to see as many of you there as possible!
Will we build a museum to remember the genocide and systematic expulsion of #Hazaras from their homes and lands in Afghanistan or will we do something to stop it now?
– Sajjad Askary, Hazara refugee, on Twitter
Wanted: Buddies Director for 2021-22
We’re still looking for another Director to ideally spread the load. Directors are responsible for managing and directing the activities of Buddies. They meet once a month and the role is not onerous. For more information: Len 0419 664 524, or Lynda 0416 878 431.
Refugee & Asylum Seeker Toy Drive 2021
RAS Toy Drive, chuffed.org
Never underestimate the power of one child receiving one toy. RAS Toy Drive exists to bring joy and happiness to every single one of the over 10,000 refugee and asylum seeker children in Australia.
We deliver toys, books and gifts out to every child. In 2021 that will include all the recently arrived children from Afghanistan. Working almost as a collective of people, we receive donations of toys and distribute these toys out to over 30 locations across the country, importantly including both regional and metro Australia.
But we need your help...
Recently the Year 9 business students at MFAC presented a $984.05 cheque to Directors Lynda Utting and Len Mangan, the profit from a small business project.
Buddies will use this donation for a specific purpose so the students can see how their donation is used. No money will be spent on administration or other running costs.
The business subject teacher and department head are both enthusiastic supporters and will work with us towards delivering a refugee and asylum seeker awareness program to the Grade 9 cohort in the third term of 2022.
Click on the image to enlarge.
Humanity in action: Help 4 Afghan siblings seek refuge in Canada
Nina Burridge, Chuffed.org
Help these four siblings seek refuge in Canada! We already have the sponsors – we just need your help to send them to safety. This is their story.
The next requirement is to raise AUD$50,000. This money will be held in a Canadian Trust account, and used to pay for the sibling’s living costs during their first year in Canada. 100% of the money raised will go to the family.
Rural Australians for Refugees (RAR)
With the end of the contract with Papua New Guinea on 1 January 2022, the ARAN Letter-Writing Kit for November is advocating for a permanent resettlement solution for the refugees still in PNG.
To: Karen Andrews, Minister for Home Affairs
Refugee communities are at breaking point. For over a decade, the government has forced 30,000 people to endure an endless cycle of temporary visas.
We advocte for refugees who have exercised their human right to seek safety here, and for children born here, But never knowing whether they can count on staying has meant never knowing whether they will ever be genuinely safe to pursue fulfilling and rewarding lives.
We call on the government to end the uncertainty.
Buddies is either 20 or 21 years old in 2022. Hopefully, we will be celebrating our anniversary and our written history would be an essential part of that celebration.
There are still enough original or long serving members around for the oral history to be recorded. There are also minutes, Bulletins, Facebook, our website and annual reports available to use as resources.
If anyone, either an individual or a group, is interested in writing the history of Buddies please contact us.
Freddie was the guest speaker at the recent Buddies meeting held on 31 October.
Click on the image to see the full size photo.
New book: STILL ALIVE by Safdar Ahmed
In early 2011, Safdar Ahmed visited Sydney’s Villawood Immigration Detention Centre for the first time. He brought pencils and sketchbooks into the Centre and started drawing with the people detained there. Their stories are told in this book.
Interweaving journalism, history and autobiography, Still Alive is an intensely personal indictment of Australia’s refugee detention policies and procedures. It is also a searching reflection on the redemptive power of art.
Safdar Ahmed won a Walkley Award in 2015 for his web comic Villawood: Notes from an immigration detention centre.
The Bulletin takes a break
The Bulletin will be taking a break in December, so this week’s Bulletin is the final for 2021. The first Bulletin for 2022 will come out on 7 January.
Wishing a great holiday season to all our readers!
COVID outbreak scandal sees calls to free Medevac refugees grow
SOLIDARITY, 15 NOVEMBER
At the height of the COVID-19 outbreak among refugees in the Park Hotel prison in Melbourne, 22 of the 46 refugees were infected, an infection rate rivalled only by the worst of the outbreaks in aged care homes.
The government has never revealed how many Serco and Border Force officers at the hotel were also infected, although it must have been an officer who brought the infection into the facility.
The COVID scandal at the Park has brought renewed calls for the Medevac refugees to be freed from detention. There were protests outside the Park, called by the Refugee Action Collective and backed by the Australia Nursing and Midwifery Federation.
The outrage at the government’s negligence did win some changes inside the facility.
Australia yet to grant a single humanitarian visa for fleeing Afghans
SBS NEWS, 15 NOVEMBER
Afghan interpreter ‘shot by the Taliban’ forced to leave family in Pakistan
SBS NEWS, 19 NOVEMBER
The Australian government has not granted a single humanitarian visa out of the initial 3,000 promised to Afghans fleeing the Taliban, a Senate inquiry has heard.
There has been an overwhelming demand for Australia’s humanitarian offer with an estimated 150,000 people now awaiting a visa outcome across 32,000 applications received by the federal government in the last three months. At its peak, the government received 10,000 applications in just one week.
Thousands of Afghans have already arrived in Australia since the fall of Afghanistan’s capital Kabul in August, but are currently residing on temporary visas.
A former Afghan interpreter for the Australian army who says he was shot in the leg by the Taliban trying to reach an Australian evacuation flight in August, says he is devastated after having to leave his young family behind in Pakistan.
'Malik' had made the dangerous land journey with his family through the border to Pakistan to board a flight to Australia.
He previously served with the Australian Defence Force in Uruzgan between 2010 and 2011.
He said he was shot by a Taliban guard at Kabul airport as he tried to make his way to the first Australian military evacuation flight on 17 August.
What it’s like seeking asylum in Australia when you don’t speak English
SBS NEWS, 17 NOVEMBER
Refugees who speak little or no English say they struggle with isolation, finding employment and navigating their visa conditions.
Rohingya refugee Ahmed has spent eight years in detention, more than two of those at the Park Hotel. In that time, he says he’s never had a visitor come to see him.
Ahmed’s limited English skills mean little attention has been brought to his plight as part of a persecuted ethnic Muslim minority. He hasn’t got a lawyer and before our interview, he’d never spoken to a journalist or media outlet.
He has no option of falling back on Google Translate, which doesn’t interpret his language. “I don’t know how to communicate with the community. I feel very lonely,” he said, speaking through another Rohingya refugee who translated for him.
Refugees from Sydney’s Tamil community targetted by investment scam
ABC NEWS, 12 NOVEMBER
How most commonly used media images dehumanise refugees
THE CONVERSATION, 19 NOVEMBER
Tamil refugee Mohan felt he was able to trust an app that promised to grow his money after he was able to withdraw the interest from the first $50 he’d invested.
About a month later, he was $1,000 out of pocket and many others in Sydney’s Tamil community had lost thousands more.
“I’m very depressed having lost the money,” Mohan said. “Some borrowed money in order to invest.”
The Hope Business scam was a Ponzi scheme that ran earlier this year. Promoted on Facebook in the Tamil language, it drew in dozens of refugees like Mohan, inviting them to download an app to invest money and promising them a handsome return.
When the Syrian refugee crisis began in 2011, the journeys of thousands of people fleeing their home country to cross the Mediterranean were widely documented in the media. But the public response was tepid until 2015, when a photograph of drowned Syrian toddler Alan Kurdi on a Turkish beach was printed in media around the world. it prompted international responses, a change of EU policy on refugees, and a surge in donations to charities working with refugees.
This phenomenon is described in social psychology as the “identifiable victim effect”. People engage differently with words and images concerning the suffering of a single individual rather than that of large groups.
How a Sudanese refugee turned his life around in Brisbane
BRISBANE TIMES, 21 NOVEMBER
Growing up in a war zone, Red Cross Migration Support Program lead Elijah Buol came to Australia from South Sudan as a lone 16-year-old, having lost both his parents before he turned 10.
Mr Buol says his new life in Australia, which began in 2002, was challenging. “It was difficult, with many barriers, like learning to speak English, the culture and the food, but I learnt to make a barbecue,” he said.
He says he will continue to help people as long as he can. “Moving to Australia was an opportunity to have a good life,” he says.
In the 19 years since he arrived in the country, the now father-of-four has become a criminologist, held roles in the Ethnic Communities Council of Queensland, and received a Medal of the Order of Australia for his services to the community and youth policy reform in Queensland.
Thank you to Len Mangan, Lisa McDonald, Margaret Norris, Lynda Utting and Diana Woolleyfor their contributions to this edition.
ABOUT BUDDIES REFUGEE SUPPORT GROUP Buddies is an independent community group based on the Sunshine Coast which advocates for just and compassionate treatment of refugees, consistent with the human rights standards which Australia has developed and endorsed.
We support policies towards refugees and asylum seekers that reflect respect, decency and traditional Australian generosity to those in need, while advancing Australia’s international standing and national interests. Confidentiality Your email address is completely confidential. To contribute to Buddies Buddies’ fundraising contributes to refugee and asylum seeker support. You can direct debit to:
Suncorp Bank, BSB 484-799
Account No: 123508960
Account name: Buddies Refugee Support Group Ltd
Your donations are much appreciated by those we help.