Refugees have been holding peaceful vigils outside the offices of key ministers in a campaign for permanent visas, writes Jane Salmon.
IF STRESS HAS its own Richter scale, the people standing outside political offices of late seem to be under massive pressure.
Vigils by stranded refugees have been ongoing for the past fortnight outside the Victorian electoral offices of Home Affairs Minister Clare O'Neil and Immigration Minister Andrew Giles. These events have been characterised by chants, music, heart signs and attendance by people in all stages of life.
The majority of those attending are Iranians who are at odds with the current regime. They have embraced the “Woman, Life, Freedom” values against female oppression back in Iran, despite the harassment of friends and relatives still there.
According to Wikipedia, more than 300 state executions occurred so far this year.
The Australian Department of Immigration has kept at least 10,000 people in uncertainty since 2013. Sovereign Borders policy was incubated even earlier. Refugees say that they found the culture of the department “unhelpful”. Given the values displayed in actions and texts of suspended long-term Secretary of Home Affairs, Michael Pezzullo, this will come as little surprise. He was the right-hand enabler of Right-wing immigration ministers from 2014 and in border control before that.
The Albanese ALP Government chose to stick with Pezzullo and concomitant “tough on borders” optics for 18 more months, despite a secure majority.
Polls certainly reinforce the notion that Australians are racist, no matter how poorly Opposition Leader Peter Dutton does in the same surveys. Meanwhile, some media happily scapegoat people from overseas for housing shortages, even as they prop up the entire essential economy.
Narges Shaterian, mother of three, carried a sign and swayed to music at Giles' Scullin electoral office. She lives locally, but has yet to meet her local MP.
“I migrated with my family (husband and three kids) 16 July 2013. My oldest son was 23 years old when we came here. My daughter was 18 years old and my youngest son was eight years old. I wanted my children to be safer and free to speak.”
Narges is on a Temporary Bridging Visa — renewable every six months. That means that even access to Medicare is frequently disrupted as each renewal takes two months. A court process begun in 2018 has led nowhere, with a second hearing in the Federal Court due at a time yet to be determined.
Narges has been running businesses in Australia for 11 years. Her current venture is a pizza shop. Her husband, Amir Kardigar, runs a painting company.
Their daughter, Nooshzad Kardigar, has worked two jobs back-to-back to get her Master's in Medical Imaging, including pathology shifts. She is charged high course fees as an international student, not a person with permanent residency or a Resolution of Status Visa. Thirty thousand dollars a year is a lot to find.
Mohammad Kardigar, 18 years old, is studying Civil Engineering at RMIT and has already been promoted to manager at McDonald's. He has been here since he arrived as a lad of eight.
Oldest brother, Nooshad, has a Master's in I.T. from Iran and has lived his 33 years with cerebral palsy. Narges has been his stoic carer night and day for every one of those 33 years. These days, this means Nooshad must park his chair at the back of the pizza shop. He has no access to academic opportunity or the community supports citizens might enjoy, no matter how much tax his parents contribute.
Nooshad feels that his disability has been an obstacle to his family's progress. Right now he says that he feels too upset to eat. Photos show that he is already slender.
Nooshad's interests include human rights law, music and swimming, but his main goal is to get back to his career via an Australian university. With his whole family flat out at work, it would take a carer to access that.
What specifically caused the family to leave?
Nooshad and I were in a demonstration of disabled people who asked the Government about their rights. Government police attacked a reporter and broke his camera. Nooshad then had a seizure attack and as we left, police insulted me and then arrested me.
The police talked to my boss about me and I lost my job. They then called my father claiming to be from Nooshad's university to ask where Nooshad and his family were. My widowed father (now 78) says that he still feels like someone is following him from time to time.
Well, you would want to leave, wouldn't you?
Nowadays, Narges has dropped her headscarf. She notices Christian compassion and is growing curious about different religions.
Back at the electoral office, protesters disperse back to work. They'll return tomorrow and the next day.
More protest events are planned in the campaign for permanent visas, including demonstrations at the electoral office of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. A mixed group of Iranian and Sri Lankan women is currently walking from Melbourne to Canberra. They are expected to arrive around 17 or 18 October, despite nasty blisters.
A separate sit-down strike is scheduled for Canberra on 24 October.
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