Monthly Archives: September 2015

More than 20,000 asylum seekers receive work rights after years living in forced destitution

September 25, 2015 | the age

Asylum seeker Hamid, a Hazara Afghan, received work rights three weeks ago and is now working as a paver and a bricklayer.

Asylum seeker Hamid, a Hazara Afghan, received work rights three weeks ago and is now working as a paver and a bricklayer.

How sweet it is to wake to a new day – a day with a shape, a day with meaning. Hamid Ali rises early. He pours tea into a thermos, pulls on a vest and steps outside into the morning chill. Then he starts to smile.
“Two years I have been in Australia and there was nothing,” he says. “We had no permission to work, we could not go to school … all I could do was stay at home.”
Like thousands of other asylum seekers who came by boat after August 2012, Mr Ali has been under visa conditions that stopped him from getting a job and restricted him to a fraction of the dole, $31 a day, scarcely enough for rent. Days stretched into weeks, months into years.
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But this morning, his first day back on the tools, the Pakistani Hazara is standing tall, surveying the construction site where he will be working as a brickie.
“I am bricklaying the fences here,” says Mr Ali. “Soon I will hopefully have bigger projects and can do a complete house.”
Australia’s strict visa rules that have forced asylum seekers to live in destitution are now being relaxed, with the federal government rubber-stamping new work approvals in numbers not seen for years.
Statistics obtained this week reveal a staggering 22,800 asylum seekers between January and September have been granted eligibility to start earning a living.
“In the same period last year, large numbers of illegal maritime arrivals remained in detention,” a Border Force spokeswoman said.
“Many were released on Bridging Visa E without work rights. A total of 62 had work rights.”
Of 25,000 boat arrivals now living in the community on bridging visas, more than 24,400 can now work.
Migrant resettlement service AMES said more than 2000 asylum seeker clients had received work rights, up from 350 in February.
“Work is not just about a pay cheque, it is a source of pride, self-reliance, improved health and sense of self-worth,” chief executive Cath Scarth said. “It gives structure and meaning to people’s lives and it is the fabric from which our society is wrought.”
The rush of new work approvals follows the federal government lifting a stay on processing asylum seeker protection claims and has begun a “fast-track” processing system.
But the controversial system has also drawn criticism from legal groups, which say it could lead to legitimate asylum seekers being sent back to persecution in their home countries. Asylum seekers will have a single opportunity to make their claim to the department and face more stringent limits on their right to appeal a negative decision.
Asylum Seeker Resource Centre chief executive Kon Karapanagiotidis said the government was “giving with one hand while taking away with the other”.
“While it’s positive that people seeking asylum in our country have the right to work again, it comes after a long period where they were left without the ability to support themselves or their families,” he said. “Now they face the prospect of only being eligible for temporary protection from the war, violence and persecution they have escaped in their home country.”
The Brotherhood of St Laurence, which runs an asylum seeker employment program, has reported a “three-fold increase”, with 275 referrals between April and June. Spokeswoman Farah Farouque said the program was experiencing a “flurry” of new asylum seekers eager to work and contribute to society.

Source: http://www.theage.com.au/national/more-than-20000-asylum-seekers-receive-work-rights-after-years-living-in-forced-destitution-20150924-gjtvnx.html#ixzz3nTreK4bQ

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Filed under Asylum Policy, Life after detention

Gunmen kill 13 Hazaras in north Afghanistan

September 05, 2015 | AFP

The victims, all male passengers, were plucked from their vehicles and shot dead from close range. -AP/FIle

The victims, all male passengers, were plucked from their vehicles and shot dead from close range. -AP/FIle

MAZAR SHARIF: Unknown gunmen on Saturday killed 13 minority Hazaras travelling in two vehicles in a usually tranquil northern Afghan province, as President Ashraf Ghani implored international donors for renewed support to the “wounded country”.

The victims, all male passengers, were plucked from their vehicles and shot dead from close range in a rare attack targeting ethnic minorities.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the incident, but it comes as Taliban insurgents ramp up attacks amid a bitter leadership transition.

“The gunmen stopped two vehicles, lined up all the male passengers and shot them dead,” said Jafar Haidari, the governor of Zari district in Balkh, where the incident occurred.

“They spared the life of one woman who was in one of the vehicles. All the victims were Hazaras.” Abdul Razaq Qaderi, the deputy police chief of Balkh, confirmed the fatalities, adding that officials were investigating who was behind it.

The killings bore chilling similarities to another incident in Wardak province south of Kabul, where gunmen opened fire on a bus and killed 13 passengers in late March.

Attacks targeting Shia minorities in Afghanistan are not unheard of, but rare compared to neighbouring Pakistan.

Masked gunmen seized 31 Hazaras from a bus in the southern Afghan province of Zabul in late February as they were returning from Iran.

Nineteen of them were released in May in exchange for scores of Uzbek militant fighters held in government prisons.

Saturday’s killings came as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani implored international donors for their continued support, saying the country faced a host of security and economic challenges.

“Rebuilding Afghanistan is going to be a long-term endeavour,” Ghani said at a conference of donors in Kabul attended by Western delegates and non-governmental organisations.

“Afghanistan is a wounded country. Widespread unemployment, a violent insurgency, and the advance of extremism across the region are increasing the likelihood that (our) economic reform agenda will be undone by political unrest,” added Ghani.

Taliban insurgents are stepping up their summer offensive launched in late April amid a simmering leadership succession dispute after the confirmation of longtime chief Mullah Omar’s death.

Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, a trusted deputy of Omar, was named as the insurgents’ new chief in late July, but the power transition has been acrimonious.

Afghan security forces, stretched on multiple fronts, are facing their first fighting season without the full support of US-led NATO forces.

NATO ended its combat mission in Afghanistan last December and pulled out the bulk of its troops although a 13,000-strong residual force remains for training and counter-terrorism operations.

Source:http://www.dawn.com/news/1205117

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Filed under Hazara Persecution