August 08, 2013
Tahir Mohseni, 19, outside his Dandenong share house, spent six months in detention before a High Court challenge killed off the proposed Malaysia people swap. He now lives and studies in Victoria. Picture: Aaron Francis Source: TheAustralian
SHABBIR Mohseni arrived at Christmas Island last Friday knowing of the Australian government’s stated intention to send him and other unaccompanied minors to Papua New Guinea “in due course”.
But the 16-year-old also knew that when his older brother faced being sent to Malaysia in 2011 the threat never eventuated and now Tahir Mohseni, 19, is living and studying in Melbourne.
Mr Mohseni and Shabbir are the eldest of six children of a former tailor and his wife living in the Pakistani city of Quetta, the scene of persistent and intensifying violence and recognised as a dangerous place for Shia Muslims.
Mr Mohseni is happy and relieved his younger brother is safe on dry land and in the care of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, though he is worried Shabbir may not get to start the life he hoped for him. At his share house in Dandenong, Mr Mohseni pores over news reports for clues about whether the government will really send teenagers to PNG. “I am not sure what will happen with the government, if the system is (going to be) changed,” he says. “The election is coming, everything could be going to change.”
Shabbir has told his family he would rather risk being transferred to PNG under Kevin Rudd’s new rules than try to survive by himself in Indonesia or return to a life in fear of Sunni militants.
Mr Mohseni knows from experience that Australia’s asylum-boat policy can change very fast, and the fortunes of those in detention with it. He was 17 in May 2011 when he boarded a boat with 31 other asylum-seekers and a kitten near Jakarta and sailed into Julia Gillard’s Malaysia Solution.
In six months of detention on Christmas Island and in Darwin, he feared expulsion to Kuala Lumpur, but a High Court challenge killed off the proposed Malaysia people swap and he is now a permanent resident, studying welding and working part-time jobs.
He sends a small amount of money to his parents and four youngest siblings in Pakistan.
“My father had to leave his shop because of threats — they are living almost in hiding, it is very hard for them,” he said.
Mr Mohseni said he warned Shabbir about Labor’s new rules denying boatpeople settlement.
“Before Shabbir got on the boat last week, I told him about the new program to send everyone to PNG — I said, ‘If you come here that will happen with you.’ He told me: ‘If I work here in Indonesia I will have a very hard time, no one cares what happens to you, but if I go to PNG it will be more better because I will be in the care of Australia.’ ”
Mr Mohseni had not heard from his brother since that phone call and was relieved yesterday to see a photo of him being brought ashore by the Australian navy at Flying Fish Cove.