August 15, 2014
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.
“I WANT TO SHOW PEOPLE THAT I AM A REFUGEE, I AM FROM AFGHANISTAN… AND THEY DON’T NEED TO BE SCARED OF ME…”
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.
“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…”
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.