Tag Archives: hazara asylum seekers

UK to deport Pakistani activist despite Taliban death threats

October 16, 2014

Liaquat Ali Hazara, whose deportation is set for 21 October, campaigned for Shia minority group against sectarian violence.

Liaquat Ali Hazara
Liaquat Ali Hazara is a campaigner for a Shia minority group that shares his name – the Hazaras. Photograph: Facebook

Britain plans to deport a prominent Pakistani activist within a week, even though he has received multiple death threats from the country’s most brutal sectarian group, and from Taliban militants who know his home address and have been stalking him online.

Liaquat Ali Hazara is a campaigner for a Shia minority group that shares his name, the Hazaras. More than 500 Hazaras have been killed in his home province of Balochistan since 2008, according to a Human Rights Watch report published this year, entitled We Are the Walking Dead.

It details bombings and shootings, including an assault on a bus full of pilgrims, when gunmen came back to kill wounded survivors as they were taken to hospital. “There is no travel route, no shopping trip, no school run, no work commute that is safe,” the report said.

The UK government has scheduled Hazara’s deportation for 21 October on the grounds that he would be safe in other parts of the country, he told the Guardian. But they still plan to fly him to Quetta, the Balochistan capital and his hometown, where threatening letters have been hand-delivered to the house where his wife and parents live. He worries he may not even make to his front door.

“The threatening letters that were sent to my home say very clearly if I don’t stop talking against the extremist groups or if I come back to Pakistan they will behead me,” Hazara said in a phone interview from the detention centre where he is being held.

“I fear they can just “disappear” me from the airport, because they have good contacts with the security people as well, who have been infiltrated by the religious extremists.”

Even if he does survive the journey, it is not clear where he might go if he left his job. There have been sectarian killings across Pakistan, and some of the emailed death threats have been traced to Karachi, a port city several hundred miles away from Quetta, and Hyderabad, another distant town.

“We will deal with you the same way as we do with your people in Quetta, who are sent to hell,” someone using the name Abdul Haq Jhangvi wrote to him in 2011. “We have decided to catch you alive, then, we will send your head [to] your people. We will teach you a good lesson so that no other person dares to write against the Taliban mujahideen. We will see you very soon.”

Shia Hazara mourn suidice bomb victims in Quetta
Hazara relatives attend the funeral ceremony of victims who were killed in a suicide bomb attack in Quetta this month. Photograph: Jamal Tarakai/EPA

Hazara, 36, was studying for an accountancy diploma in London when his concerns about rising sectarian violence pushed him to begin campaigning in 2009.

Outside the region, the scale of the killings is not well known and there is little pressure on Islamabad for change, while the Pakistani government has seemed largely indifferent to the steadily rising toll.

After the attack on the bus of pilgrims in 2011, the provincial chief minister, Aslam Raisani, said: “Of the millions who live in Balochistan, 40 dead [in this attack] is not a big deal. I will send a truckload of tissue papers to the bereaved families.”

Determined to try to change those attitudes, Hazara founded the Hazara United Movement, a political campaign group, organising protests and sit-ins, writing op-eds and running a campaigning blog. Among other achievements, it helped lay the ground for a House of Commons debatethis year on the situation in Balochistan.

His work did not go unnoticed at home, however. The first threats from the Taliban and Lashkar-e Jhangvi, one of Pakistan’s most vicious Sunni militant groups arrived in 2010 and 2011. After a string of emailed warnings in English, and handwritten threats in Pashtu and Urdu, Hazara claimed asylum in September 2012, based on his high-profile political activities.

His first barrister failed to present the immigration tribunal with information he had prepared detailing how the threat to his life extended beyond Quetta, Hazara said. Two subsequent reports from a legal expert were rejected by the Home Office as insufficient grounds for asylum, he says, and he was refused a request for a judicial review of the case.

“My life is genuinely in danger, and the Home Office is not listening,” said Hazara, who has been in detention since July with deportion set for next week. “I would like to request Human Rights Groups to campaign for me and exert more meaningful pressure.”

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/14/uk-deport-pakistani-activist-liaquat-ali-hazara

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Learning centre helps asylum seekers cope

October 03, 2014 | the age

Twenty adolescent boys and girls cram in one room of a house in West Java, singing and gesturing in delightfully accented English a song made famous by a giant purple dinosaur.

“With a great big hug and a kiss from me to you, won’t you say you love me too?” they sing and point, embracing Barney the Dinosaur’s signature tune with the same enthusiasm of the generation of children before them.

This is the English class at the Cisarua Refugee Learning Centre and the mainly ethnic Hazara children attending could not be happier to be here.

A child at the asylum seekers' new "learning centre".A child at the asylum seekers’ new “learning centre”. Photo: Michael Bachelard

In what would be the lounge if this was a family home, the littlies are having their faces painted with English words such as “Excellent”, while others play word games with their young teacher and recite, with enthusiasm, Ring a-ring a-rosie.

In a third tiny room, the older teenagers take a rather more serious approach to their lesson, even though it’s standing room only.

Just two months ago, these children were bored and aimless, dislocated from their home countries and stuck in temporary accommodation as their school years ebbed.

Children at an asylum seeker learning centre in Cisarua, Indonesia.Children at an asylum seeker learning centre in Cisarua, Indonesia. Photo: Michael Bachelard

A year before that they might have been preparing with their parents to attempt the perilous boat voyage from Indonesia to Australia, fleeing the sometimes deadly dangers of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq.

But Operation Sovereign Borders has stopped that traffic in boats,and now hundreds of children are among the 10,000 people marooned indefinitely in Indonesia while their asylum claims wend their way through the United Nations process towards an uncertain end.

Foreign children cannot attend Indonesian schools but, rather than give in to hopelessness and frustration, a group of four Hazara men pushed to open this learning centre in early August.

A class at the learning centre in Cisarua.A class at the learning centre in Cisarua. Photo: Michael Bachelard

One of them, Khadim Dai, is only 18 and wise beyond his years.

“Before, Indonesia was just a transit for asylum seekers. Now we must live here for three or four or five years, so we must educate our children. It’s as simple as that,” Khadim says.

The community expressed its interest a while ago but renting the house led to an explosion in applications. Fifty-five students and seven teachers now come to what the founders are careful to avoid calling a school (because it is not certified by the Indonesian government). They range in age from about five to 17 and attend for three hours a day, four days a week, to learn English, maths and “general knowledge”, or basic science.

Welcome distraction: Children learning English at the centre. Welcome distraction: Children learning English at the centre. Photo: Michael Bachelard

Classes in English for adult women are also held twice a week, so that, if they’re lucky enough to win one of the few thousand refugee places in Australia or New Zealand, they’ll be prepared.

An Australian donor has paid the rent to start with and donors have supplied piles of textbooks in English. The asylum seeker community kicked in to buy some basic equipment – a whiteboard and some markers. Even so, space is tight and the students sit on the floor or stand – partly because they have no chairs. Another 20 children are on the waiting list because they simply cannot fit into the building.

Despite its shortcomings, teachers and students here are both clear on the value of this project.

The learning centre aims to keep children occupied and prepare them for a possible life in an English-speaking country. The learning centre aims to keep children occupied and prepare them for a possible life in an English-speaking country. Photo: Michael Bachelard

“Sitting at home wasting your time is not good and you will be depressed,” says 17-year-old Maliha Ali in almost flawless English, “so that is why I am coming here – to utilise my time and utilise the students’ time and teach them something that I know”.

Maliha was still a student herself in Pakistan when her family fled a Taliban death threat to her father, Liaquat Ali Changezi. She didn’t have a chance to graduate but now she is the “teacher” of the middle level class.

Her little brother, Fazil Aqil, 12, agrees that, “when we were free [to do nothing], the bad thoughts come in our mind”.

All smiles: A young boy at the learning centre.All smiles: A young boy at the learning centre. Photo: Michael Bachelard

“Now it is good that we have a school and three hours we are busy with our school.”

Both children would say that – they are the offspring of Changezi, the learning centre’s co-founder and “principal”, who was a well known local Hazara TV actor in Quetta, Pakistan, before he says he was forced to flee. Ask Changezi about the learning centre and he does not celebrate his achievement so much as worry about its inadequacy.

Some students have much more English than others and it’s hard for the teachers to manage, he says.

“We need a bigger space … we have classes one, two and three,but the students belong in different age groups and different classes … it’s very hard for the teachers.”

Changezi also wants to find chairs, a computer and printer, and some training for the volunteer teachers.

“I want to start a full service but we can’t do it right now.”

Khadim says a collateral benefit of the learning centre has been improved communications with the local Indonesian community. Relations between the thousands of asylum seekers who live in the hilltop town of Cisarua and the locals have not always been happy and stories of threatened violence and distrust are easy to find. But the Indonesian community leader for this area, known as the “RT,” cut the ribbon to open the learning centre, and Indonesian children who want to learn English (and don’t mind their new friends speaking Hazaragi in the playground) have been invited to attend.

“We are a guest here, so we want to know about Indonesian culture and respect them,” Khadim says.

It’s a small start towards some high-minded aims. But the children in this school know that anything’s better than sitting around doing nothing.

Source: http://www.theage.com.au/world/learning-centre-helps-asylum-seekers-cope-20141003-10ppkx.html

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Australia forcibly deports, for first time, Afghan asylum seeker

August 28, 2014

Australia has, for the first time, forcibly deported an Afghan asylum seeker to his homeland, with a 29-year-old ethnic Hazara sent back on Tuesday night from Sydney.

In the Federal Circuit Court yesterday, Judge Nicholas Manousaridis dismissed an application by the man to halt his deportation.

“Please help me,” the man, speaking Hazaragi, told the court through an interpreter.

Previous forcible deportations have seen Hazaras returned to Pakistan, but never to Afghanistan.

The 29-year-old ethnic Hazara, known to the court as SZUYW, first fled Afghanistan for Iran. Iran systematically deports Afghan asylum seekers and, having been ejected, the man then came to Australia by boat, arriving in December 2011.

His claim for asylum was rejected, and his appeal to the Refugee Review Tribunal in December 2012 failed, the tribunal ruling that it was safe to live in his home district of Jaghori, in central Afghanistan, which is majority Hazara.

“The Tribunal notes that there is a significant population living in Jaghori. His family are living there … [and] as there is a route from Kabul to Jaghori that is secure, there is not a real risk the applicant will suffer significant harm.”

The man told the court yesterday he feared the Taliban.

“Jaghori is confined, it’s like a prison, the surrounding areas are all controlled by the Taliban. Many people die on the way to Jaghori.”

The Taliban have made significant advances in recent months, and now control several highways surrounding Kabul, including the so-called “Death Road” to central Afghanistan, which is rarely travelled now after dozens of beheadings, kidnappings and bombings.

Ian Rintoul, from the Refugee Action Coalition, said the Refugee Review Tribunal’s security assessment was based on information now more than two years old. More recent RRT decisions have ruled Jaghori district was not a safe place for Hazaras to return to.

“It makes no sense to send someone back to a country that is descending into war, which Afghanistan is. The security situation has deteriorated dramatically and will only get worse. Hazaras are being targeted by the Taliban.”

The United Nations General Assembly report on Afghanistan, from March this year, found the security situation “remained volatile” and that armed clashes had increased 51 per cent since 2012.

Australia has returned refugees to Afghanistan before, but never against their will. In 2001, 179 refugees from the MV Tampa were returned to Afghanistan, after agreeing to go back while being held on Nauru.

An investigation by Fairfax Media in 2011 found at least 20 returned refugees had been killed in their homeland, several had fled again, for Australia and other countries, while more than a dozen remained in hiding.

The Refugees Convention, to which Australia is a party, prohibits refoulement, sending refugees back to a place where their “life or freedom would be threatened”.

The man was taken from Villawood detention centre where he was being held, and left Australia on a 9:40pm flight.

Source: http://www.smh.com.au/national/australia-forcibly-deports-for-first-time-afghan-asylum-seeker-20140827-108oms.html#ixzz3BZFIgBkg


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Riding for refugees

August 15, 2014

PLIGHT: Afghani asylum seeker Rohullah Hussaini and Swan Hill Rural City councillor Michael Adamson are set to cycle to Canberra to raise awareness of refugee rights.

PLIGHT: Afghani asylum seeker Rohullah Hussaini and Swan Hill Rural City councillor Michael Adamson are set to cycle to Canberra to raise awareness of refugee rights.


An uncertain future

Refugee support

A BIKE and sheer determination are all Afghani asylum seeker Rohullah Hussaini needs to set out on the ambitious mission of bettering conditions for refugees in Australia.

Arriving in Australia in August 2012, Mr Hussaini has spent much of his life trying to survive.

As a Hazara man growing up in Ghazni, Afghanistan, a city near the capital of Kabul, he escaped his home country after concerns for his personal security reached a tipping point.

The Hazara people, primarily from the central highland region of Hazarajat in Afghanistan — which includes Ghazni Province — have been systematically persecuted by fundamentalist groups in the region since as far back as the 16th century.

These conditions have seen them become one of the largest groups of refugee people to seek asylum in countries that include Australia.

He initially sought asylum in Europe, Pakistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia, before making the perilous journey to Australia.

Arriving before the Federal Government cracked down on ‘illegal’ refugee arrivals, Mr Hussaini has been able to find work as he waits to see if his application for asylum will be approved so he can remain in Australia permanently.


However, for refugees who arrived on Australian shores after a government policy change later in August 2012, they have no such right.

The hard-line approach to refugee issues in Australia has motivated Mr Hussaini to raise awareness of the issue through a 700km cycling trip.

Travelling from Swan Hill to Canberra, local councillor Michael Adamson will also join the pilgrimage to educate people along the way.


They will set off on August 21, arriving in Canberra for the first day of parliament on August 26.

“I want to show people that I am a refugee, I am from Afghanistan… and they don’t need to be scared of me,” Mr Hussaini said.

Cr Adamson said they were hoping the marathon ride would help people to better understand refugees and why they chose to seek asylum.

“I think that people think in Australia that the Hazara people are coming here just because they want to, but if they could stay in their homes they would — nobody wants to leave their home,” Cr Adamson said.

“Whether they come by boat, or plane, or swim across the ocean — we should stop victimising them and dehumanising them.”

Mr Hussaini recently applied for a permanent visa to remain in Australia, but remains unsure if he will be granted asylum after it was initially refused.

The refusal was based on the deciding body — the Refugee Council — deeming it safe enough for him to return home.

“The thing is Australia doesn’t even have a consulate in Afghanistan because they say it is not safe — but they say it is safe for us to return,” Mr Hussaini said.


When they arrive in Canberra, Cr Adamson and Mr Hussaini will present Member for Mallee Andrew Broad with a petition of names gathered in support of increased rights for refugees, and seek an audience with Minister for Immigration Scott Morrison.

“I want to support Rohullah in the process, I have done a number of long rides — it is not easy by yourself,” Cr Adamson said.

“I also want to support the issues that some of the Afghani refugees have in our country… to make a stand and say these are real people, with real needs and we can’t treat them like they are not.

“Rohullah is a great person and has made a great contribution to the community and yet he can’t get permanent residence.”

The pair are planning to cycle 150km each day, and are still looking for support along their journey.

Anyone is welcome to ride with the pair along the way, and supplies including some biking equipment, clothing and food are also sought.

To offer a hand contact Cr Michael Adamson on 0400 143 100.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com.au/story/2489928/riding-for-refugees/?cs=1270

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Regional Australia opens its arms to ‘at risk’ women refugees

August 11, 2014

Twelve months ago no Hazara lived in the south-east Queensland town of Toowoomba but now there are 200 women and their dependents starting a new life in Australia.

Twelve months ago no Hazara lived in the south-east Queensland town of Toowoomba but now there are 200 women and their dependents starting a new life in Australia.

Twelve months ago no Hazara lived in the south-east Queensland town of Toowoomba but now there are 200 women and their dependents starting a new life in Australia.

They are among the lucky 1,000 who secured “Women at Risk” refugee visas last year but came with no English, no husbands and no qualifications.

Women from Afghanistan receive about half the visa quota and are flown to Australia from refugee camps in Pakistan.

“All I have been feeling since I got to Australia is joy and happiness,” said Latifa Amini who arrived in March.

“Through this move and the help that I got is here, I feel safe, my children feel safe, we live in a home we know is not going to be attacked by anyone, we know there is nobody that is going to come and take away things from us, we are safe here, that’s the main difference, I feel at ease,” she said.

Since 1989, Australia has issued about 14,000 “At Risk” visas to women from 37 countries. Initially only a few hundred a year were offered.

Many have suffered torture and abuse; lost their husbands, fled war zones and have limited means to provide from themselves.

“These are some of the most vulnerable women and children in the world and we’ve (Australia) really made a strong international commitment to take women through this program. It’s something we can be immensely proud of,” said Kerrin Benson, head of Multicultural Development Australia the organisation that is supporting the Hazara women.

Latifa Amini arrived in March with her two sons and a sister and was brought straight to Toowoomba to start her new life.

“We’re delighted to have them here, we welcomed them when they first arrived, in fact we’ll have a celebration soon of their 12 month stay in Toowoomba,” said Toowoomba mayor Paul Antonoi.

“There was a deliberate move by council to become a Refugee Welcome Zone.

“We’ve had a lot of people coming here for a long time, and even if you look back in our early history, while that immigration was European, there was tremendous cooperation between cultures, the Irish, the Germans, who wouldn’t have known each other.”

Since the first Hazara arrive about a year ago they have been learning English and how to use their cooking and sewing skills to earn an income.

This weekend they put their results of their hard work to the test, with a food and craft stalls at the Toowoomba Cultures and Languages Festival, attended by about 15,000 people.

“My ultimate goal would be that I would not be a burden to the Australian community and government and people, my aim would be to be independent and work and earn enough money to live,” said Latifa Amini.

Toowoomba did make them feel welcome and the Hazara food stall sold out of everything.

“I want it to be like today, full of joy and happiness and we can present our culture through our handiwork or crafts, food or cooking, music. Today was a happy day,” Latifa Amini said.

Source: http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2014/08/10/regional-australia-opens-its-arms-risk-women-refugees


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Women and children among Hazara passengers singled out and executed in Ghor Afghanistan

July 25, 2014

At least 14 Hazaas, including 3 women and 1 child, passengers are singled out and executed by Taliban in Ghor, Afghanistan

At least 14 Hazaas, including 3 women and 1 child, passengers are singled out and executed by Taliban in Ghor, Afghanistan

At least 14 Hazaas, including 3 women and 1 child, passengers are singled out and executed by Taliban in Ghor, Afghanistan.

The 15 killed were separated by the armed men after their national ID cards were checked, Provincial Governor Sayed Anwar Rahmati told TOLOnews.

An adviser to the provincial governor was also among those killed, said Rahmati.

Local officials said the victims of the shootout belonged to the Hazara ethnic minority.

“Four of them were members of one family,” said Governor Rahmati. “A groom and his bride and the groom’s mother and sister were brutally killed.”

The three vans – two heading to the capital of Kabul and one on its way from Kabul to Cheghcheran – were randomly stopped at one point in the isolated Lal and Sarjungal district.

Ghor Police Chief Gen. Fahim Qayem said an investigation has begun to find out why selected passengers were killed.

However, the suspected Taliban insurgents, blamed for most of the civilian causalities, have not yet commented about the incident.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai expressed his condolences to the victims families in a statement released by the Presidential Palace.

Karzai illustrated with strong words the condemnation of the inhuman killings of the innocent lives, calling it an unforgivable act against humanity and religious values.

Two weeks ago, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) expressed its concerns about a 24 percent increase of civilian casualties in 2014 in Afghanistan.

Ghor governor called on the central government to deploy additional security forces to his province amid an increase in insecurity there.

Sources: http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/15707-taliban-shots-dead-16-civilians-in-ghor


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Spotlight on Dandenong’s community of Afghan Hazaras by award-winning photojournalist Barat Ali Batoor

June 09, 2014

WBarat Ali Batoor is never far away from his trusty camera. Picture: Valeriu Campan

Barat Ali Batoor is never far away from his trusty camera. Picture: Valeriu Campan Source: News Limited

Barat Ali Batoor is always focussed on putting the spotlight on his community. Picture: V

Barat Ali Batoor is always focussed on putting the spotlight on his community. Picture: Valeriu Campan Source: News Limited

A WALKLEY-AWARD winning photojournalist will showcase an exhibition on the Afghan Hazara community next month in Dandenong.

Barat Ali Batoor’s work will be on display at the Walker Street Gallery from July 3 to 26 and aims to provide insight into the day-to-day lives of Hazaras in the city and the valuable contributions they make.

Immigration to Australia increased in the late 1990s as attacks by the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan rose substantially.

Today, there are an estimated 12,000 Hazaras living in Greater Dandenong and Casey.

Mr Batoor, a Hazara himself, worked as a photojournalist in Afghanistan and has been published in the Washington PostNewsweekand The Wall Street Journal.

The Dandenong local spent four months researching and shooting the exhibit.

“I was thinking about how much they must have changed from when they first arrived and didn’t have any education and English,” Mr Batoor said.

“This story is about that, and in the exhibition I photographed people who started as labourers or working in meat factories, but now have their own businesses.

“It is mostly success stories.”

Mr Batoor said the exhibition would shed light on both the Hazara culture and asylum seeker issues.

“All we get from the media and news is mounting propaganda about asylum seekers and refugees,” he said.

“We have thousands of asylum seekers on bridging visas with no work rights, but if given the opportunity they will also shine and contribute to the community.”


One of Mr Batoor’s images: Najafi Barber Shop in Dandenong Arcade. Picture: Barat Ali Bat

One of Mr Batoor’s images: Najafi Barber Shop in Dandenong Arcade. Picture: Barat Ali Batoor/Supplied Source: Supplied


*A Hazara’s life:

n Hazaras are the third largest ethnic group in Afghanistan, at about 2.8 million, and have a population of more than 500,000 in neighbouring Pakistan.

n They are mostly Shia Muslims, making them targets for violence by extremist Sunni Muslim groups such as the Taliban and Lashkar-e-Jhangri.

n Thousands have been killed in recent years in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Source: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/leader/south-east/spotlight-on-dandenongs-community-of-afghan-hazaras-by-awardwinning-photojournalist-barat-ali-batoor/story-fngnvmhm-1226945531506

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