Two Hazaras shot dead in Quetta

November 08, 2015 | DAWN

QUETTA: Armed assailants on Saturday evening killed two members of the Hazara community in the provincial capital.

“Armed assailants opened fire at a vehicle on Spini road and killed two members of the Hazara community,” said a police official.

The police official added that one person died at the spot of the attack while the other succumbed to his injuries while undergoing treatment.

“The two individuals belonged to the Hazara community and were residents of Hazara Town,” stated the police official.

The unknown assailants managed to flee the spot of the incident.

A contingent of police and Frontier Corps (FC) personnel reached the site of the incident and commenced initial investigation.

“It was act of target killing,” stated the police official.

There was no claim of responsibility for the incident.

In a separate incident, two bodies were recovered from Khuzdar district in the province.

“The dead bodies were found in Naal tehsil of Khuzdar district,” said a Levies official.

He added that the identity of the victims could not be immediately ascertained and both had received multiple bullet injuries.

Balochistan has been experiencing incident violence and targeted killings since more than a decade. The largest province of the country by area, is home to a low-level insurgency by ethnic Baloch separatists. Al Qaeda-linked militants also operate in the region.

The province shares borders with Afghanistan and Iran.

Source: http://www.dawn.com/news/1218131/two-hazaras-shot-dead-in-quetta-two-bodies-recovered-in-khuzdar

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One killed in shooting incident in Quetta

November 03, 2015  | Dunya News

QUETTA (Dunya News) –  At least one person was killed in recent firing incident  in Balochistan s Quetta today (Tuesday).

As police sources, some unidentified armed bikers opened fire at Hazara Town’s resident Muhammad Sadiq when he arrived at a garage at Jan Muhammad Road, killing him on the spot.

The officers told that attackers fled the scene however, directives have been issued to nab the culprits as early as possible.

According to doctors, eight bullets were found from deceased’s head and back whereas the security personnel stated that 9 mm pistol was used in the incident.

Source: http://dunyanews.tv/en/Crime/306813-One-killed-in-shooting-incident-in-Quetta#.VjjkiHWNiWU.twitter

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A Refugee Committed Suicide At Brisbane Airport An Barely Anyone Noticed

November 02, 2015 | Buzfeed Australia

Reza Alizadeh. Supplied

At around 4 a.m. last Tuesday morning, Reza Alizadeh, a 26-year-old Iranian man who had been living in Australia on a bridging visa since 2013, walked to the entrance of Brisbane International Airport.

He had been troubled for some time. Suffering from depression, he fled the Iranian city of Ahwaz by boat in 2013 and headed for Australia. He spent around three months in various detention centres before he was released into the community on a bridging visa and moved to Melbourne.

It was at this point that his already fragile mental health rapidly declined. Two troubled years, dotted with incidents of self-harm, emotional breakdowns, paranoia, and suicidal thoughts finally ended, alone at Brisbane airport when AFP officers found him hanging from a bag strap attached to a railing at around 4 a.m. on Tuesday morning.

How did it come to this? BuzzFeed News has spoken to Reza’s friends who tried desperately to get him the help he needed, as well as medical professionals who say Australia’s immigration system is giving birth to a crisis in the refugee community.

“At the end he got worse and worse. On a number of occasions he tried to harm himself and he had scars all over his body, and none of the authorities cared,” a friend of Reza’s says.

This is part of the new normal for Australia’s immigration system. For over a decade now – ever since former prime minister John Howard declared that “we will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come” – “boat people” have become a political football.

“We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come.” John Howard launching his successful election campaign in 2001. Den Lewins / AAPIMAGE

When Labor relaxed Australia’s border protection laws in 2007, a tide of refugees attempted to reach the country by boat. Tens of thousands were intercepted and put in detention centres to be processed.

Eventually the sea of humanity making its way to our shores became too much and in 2013 a new policy was formed: no one who tried to reach Australia by boat would be settled here.

As a result, there are around 30,000 refugees currently living in Australia on bridging visas, which allow a person to live – with conditions – in the community while their refugee claims are being processed or until a more permanent home can be found for them.

The bridging visas have an upside: they’ve helped to get many refugees out of detention and into the community, where they’ve got the freedom to form friendships and communities which in theory should make life in Australia a little easier.

But advocates say the visas leave refugees in a state of abject poverty. Asylum-seekers who arrived in Australia by boat on or after August 13 2012 and are granted bridging visas are not permitted to work, meaning many rely on charity just to survive.

Former prime minister Kevin Rudd announcing that anyone who attempted to reach Australia by boat would have no chance of being settled here. AAP

People on bridging visas have no right to family reunion and cannot leave the country. They are given access to temporary accommodation but are ultimately responsible for their own lodgings. In an emergency, asylum-seekers are given access to the Community Assistance Support program which helps people to meet their basic health and welfare needs. But first there has to be an emergency.

The system is deliberately and transparently punitive. The government’s stated objective is to deter asylum-seekers from ever wanting to come to Australia by boat.

It’s these conditions which have led to many asylum-seekers suffering from severe mental health issues, advocates say.

“We lock them up and drive them crazy, then we set them free and expect them to be OK,” says Pamela Curr from the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.

Zachary Steele is the professorial chair of trauma and mental health at St John of God Hospital and a professor of psychology at UNSW. He tells BuzzFeed News asylum-seekers and refugees are among the most vulnerable people in our society and need our protection.

“Every survey that’s been done shows that they do have a very high rate of exposure to torture and trauma backgrounds that places them in a very high risk category for mental health problems,” he says.

“The stresses of insecure residency and the post-migration difficulties associated with the restrictions of bridging visas create a harsh environment that in turn is associated with poorer mental health trajectories.”

For Reza, this manifested in severe paranoia, depression, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts. And while tragic, Reza’s story is not unique.

“We lock them up and drive them crazy, then we set them free and expect them to be OK.”

In February 2014 Rezene Mebrahta Engeda drowned himself in the Maribyrnong River upon notice of a failed asylum application.

In June 2014 a 29-year-old Sri Lankan man died as a result of self-immolation, suffering burns to 90% of his body. He had been living in community detention on a bridging visa awaiting the outcome of his refugee claim.

In March, Omid Ali Avaz, a 29-year-old Iranian man on a Humanitarian Stay (Temporary) visa, killed himself in Brisbane.

Earlier this month, Hazara man Khodayar Amini set himself alight while on a video call to two refugee workers.

Before his death, Khodayar reportedly told the refugee workers, “Red Cross killing me. Immigration killing me. I want to kill my life. I don’t have any option. They don’t give me chance. I can’t stay in detention centre.”

Khodayar Amini. Supplied.

One of the major problems, Pamela Curr says, is that many asylum-seekers suffering from mental health issues are afraid to reveal their troubles to the people who are supposed to help them.

“The asylum-seekers are really cursed. If they have an agency that’s looking after them and they go to that agency and say, ‘I’m feeling suicidal, I want to jump in front of a train, I can’t sleep, I’ve got voices in my head’ – all the marks of mental ill health – those agencies will notify the immigration department, and the next thing you know, the department will rock up and cart them off to detention. They’re in a real bind.”

Without any family in Australia, it was Reza’s friends who tried the hardest to get him help.

Reza took himself, or was taken to, at least three Melbourne hospitals or medical centres in the weeks before his death. Ten days before he died, Reza broke a mobile phone in half and attempted to slash his throat while in hospital. A short time later he was released to look after himself, friends say.

The hospitals contacted by BuzzFeed News were unable to comment, citing privacy concerns.

In Reza’s final weeks, friends say they contacted the immigration department, police, and Reza’s caseworker with AMES Australia, a government-contracted nonprofit which helps recently arrived refugees settle into Victoria.

A spokesperson for AMES told BuzzFeed News the organisation did all it could for Reza, but that his erratic behaviour in the period before his death made it very difficult to provide the care he needed:

“[Reza] was provided with the full range of services all of our asylum-seeker clients are afforded. As a person with a range of health issues he was given close case management and referred several times to healthcare providers.”

“It’s all black and white… on a number of occasions [Reza’s friend] has taken Reza to hospital, to police, to AMES, to his case worker, to immigration, and they basically said ‘he’s alright’.”

Shortly after Reza was released from the third hospital, he decided to fly to Brisbane. He felt this was the only place he was safe from the people he believed were following him. His friends helped him fly to Brisbane while informing anyone they could of their concerns for his wellbeing.

“He [Reza] got in touch with his cousin and he sent text messages that he was going to take his life. Then his cousin, on a number of occasions, contacted his case worker,” Reza’s friend says.

Melbourne police were informed of Reza’s situation, and Queensland police were subsequently informed.

It’s believed Queensland police officers contacted Reza after he arrived in Brisbane, meeting with him in a hotel room in Fortitude Valley to assess his mental health. After a conversation, Reza’s friends say, the officers left him alone, deciding he was not a danger to himself or others.

Following the meeting, Reza’s friend, also named Reza, says he contacted the department of immigration and AMES to warn them that Reza planned to end his life, but was told that nothing could be done.

“It’s all black and white… on a number of occasions [Reza’s friend] has taken Reza to hospital, to police, to AMES, to his case worker, to immigration, and they basically said ‘he’s alright’,” another friend says.

The two Rezas texted constantly over the weekend before final contact was made on Sunday evening. It’s not clear what happened between Sunday evening and Tuesday morning, but we may learn more when Queensland police hand over a report for the coroner.

It’s too late for Reza, but mental health experts say the system needs to be changed to look after people on temporary visas.

Reza in Melbourne before his death. Supplied.

“Your life is permanently on hold and you have a subjective fear that you may be returned to a situation where you fear for your wellbeing and the wellbeing of your family,” Prof Steele says.

“People do have to have their claims assessed and that does put enormous stress on them. There’s no way to solve that problem but there is a way to recognise it and to put a health and welfare framework around it that recognises that this is a vulnerable population.”

Michael Dudley, the chair of Suicide Prevention Australia, believes “torture” is not too strong a word for Australia’s current immigration system.

“The way in which the policy is giving rise to harm that the government and the department are aware of – it’s collateral damage of which they are fully informed. It’s a direct aim of the policy. It aims to cause suffering to make people leave the country.”

Dudley says the solution is at once complex and simple: time and money. He believes refugees have a sword of Damocles hanging over their head which could be resolved if more funding was dedicated to processing refugee claims as fast as possible.

“The UNHCR [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] needs proper funding by governments like Australia. We don’t actually have a system that is designed to do that. It’s not properly resourced,” he says.

“Mental health support could help people in these situations. Whatever support we can offer, whether mental or practical, in these dire situations, should be offered.”

Queensland police declined to comment for this story, saying it would be inappropriate as they prepare a report for the coroner.

The Department of Immigration declined several requests for comment, citing the Queensland police investigation.

Source: http://www.buzzfeed.com/robstott/a-refugees-public-suicide-and-the-system-that-let-him-down#.sqqNxEJkw

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Desperate journeys: Persecuted Hazara flee Afghanistan

November 01, 2015 | Aljazeera

Facing discrimination and a lack of opportunity, ethnic Hazara are among those landing on the Greek island of Lesbos.

At least 16 people drowned and dozens went missing last week after overcrowded boats sank [Kevin Kusmez/Al Jazeera]

Lesbos, Greece – The smuggler camp where Milad was waiting is ideally situated as a launching point to the Greek island of Lesbos. The island spreads out invitingly on the horizon with nothing between the camp and the Greek shore but 10km of open sea – seemingly within arm’s reach on a clear day.

Smugglers loaded inflatable black dinghies, three per hour, with refugees far beyond any recommended capacity and sped across the straits under the cover of darkness. This year alone, more than 450,000 refugees have landed in Greece in this manner, with thousands arriving on Lesbos each day.

The journey is often deadly. Last Wednesday at least 16 people drowned and dozens went missing after their overcrowded vessels sank. More than 100 people have died this year attempting the Turkey-to-Greece sea voyage.

On this particular day, there were only a few people preparing to make the final lunge to Europe. An hour before, the Turkish gendarmerie and coastguard coordinated a raid on the camp, detaining those who didn’t run in time.

What few boats remained had been slashed by the Turkish authorities to prevent anyone from making an attempt. Life jackets were piled up under trees by the dozens; they too had been slashed during the raid.

“When they came, we ran and hid. The border police boat came from over there,” Milad said, motioning to the narrow stretch of open beach.

Life vests damaged during a coastguard raid lie discarded under a tree at the refugee launching point on the Turkish coast [Kevin Kusmez/Al Jazeera]

The people who had managed to avoid detention – the Palestinian, Syrian, and Afghan refugees – were all scared, exhausted, and uncertain about what to do next. But despite the risk, the refugees eventually returned “to find something to eat”.

Despite his warm demeanour and eagerness to practise his nearly impeccable English, Milad, a 19-year-old Hazara refugee from Afghanistan, was hesitant to reveal any information about himself – who he is, where he came from.

Standing in a hillside olive grove-turned-smuggler camp in Turkey’s northwest in the cool stillness of the late afternoon, Milad finally opened up about his experiences that had made him so reluctant to even reveal his name.

His story is complex. The Hazara are a Persian-speaking Shia ethnic group who live predominantly in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

They are a widely persecuted community because of their religion and ethnic differences. Even among other Shia groups their Asian features are often used as a pretext to deny them rights as “Mongol” invaders.

They face violence not only from the Taliban and the Islamic State  of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), but also institutional hostility from other ethnic groups and decades of discriminatory practises  in Afghanistan and Pakistan. 

Until the 1970s, Afghan law barred Hazara  from holding office, entering university, or holding any position of national authority. Laws were little better under the Taliban.

Under former Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s administration – and by extension the new Ashraf Ghani-led government – the Hazara found an ally who promulgated an end to sectarian and ethnic discrimination.

In the 2010 elections, they achieved disproportionately large gains – in Afghanistan’s lower house, they earned 20 percent of seats  despite being an estimated nine percent of the population, and saw their ethnicity well-represented in Karzai’s administrative appointments.

With an unparalleled voting rate of about 85  percent and an emphasis on the importance of education, the Hazara have become a political force in Afghanistan punching well above their weight.

But those successes have been seen as coming at the expense of other groups – notably the more numerous and powerful ethnic Pashtun and Tajik – and have had a part in inviting a renewed cycle of violence in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The community began to fear that whatever legal protections the Hazara enjoyed are collapsing with the withdrawal of NATO forces from Afghanistan. 

This has led hundreds of thousands of Hazara to make the treacherous journey from their homeland to seek refuge in Europe.

Young Hazara refugees often travel to Europe alone to escape persecution and help support families left behind [Kevin Kusmez/Al Jazeera]

Educated, smart, and driven, Milad typifies the Hazara along the smuggler routes in Turkey, Greece, and the Balkans.

Many are fleeing the crushing poverty that accompanies the extreme persecution they face at home. But, almost universally, the Hazara making the journey to Europe are all young, single men seeking an education.

An ethnic quota on the government, army, and school systems that was meant to more evenly distribute appointments in universities and government has instead made the Hazara victims of their own success.

Despite doing well academically, Milad said no school would take him past grade 11. “The places are for Pashtuns and Tajiks only,” he said.

For many Hazara, leaving Afghanistan is a family decision. The poverty endemic to the Hazara means there is usually only enough money available in a family to send one family member – the one most likely to succeed in the journey to Europe – usually the eldest son.

At the port of Lesbos, Mohammed Reza reflected on the difficulties he had overcome to successfully arrive on European soil. “All of my family agreed I should come here,” said the 18-year-old.

His family, living as refugees in Iran, face continuous discrimination both from the government and other refugees and decided to send him to Europe for everyone’s eventual benefit.

Immaculately dressed in a smart button-down and Ray-Bans, 18-year-old Reza, recounted his ordeal that is typical for refugees who arrive on Lesbos.

Muhamad Reza said his family urged him to migrate to Europe [Kevin Kusmez/Al Jazeera]

“From Tehran to the Iran-Turkey border, we came with a pick-up truck. The capacity of this car is 10 – and it is for sheep or animals, but we were 25 or 26 people,” Reza recalled. The group then climbed for 20 hours over a mountain to arrive in Turkey where smugglers arranged for the boat.

“The capacity of that boat was 25 to 30 people. We were 49 in that boat… Our ship filled with water. We lost our engine [when] the water and fuel mixed together,” Reza explained.

The Turkish police saw their stranded boat but did not rescue them as they were already in Greek waters.

“We waved flags, shined lights, made noise, but they didn’t care,” said Reza. The people eventually decided to row with their hands and, luckily, were able to reach land after several hours.

Ali, another young Hazara who arrived on Lesbos, explained why he had taken the dangerous journey to Europe.

“My family doesn’t know that I’m here… I told them that I was going to another province for one month. They don’t know that I’m in Europe now. When I get to my final country, I’ll call them and tell them,” Ali said.

Ali said he wanted to leave because of the entrenched hatred towards his people. “It’s all politics. They can’t accept our humanity. They think that the Hazara aren’t Muslim. This isn’t true. When a person achieves his or her goal, they try to slander them by calling them Hazara.”

In a country where their very name is a slur, few Hazara see a future for themselves or their children in Afghanistan.

And, despite having crossed the threshold into the European Union, few of the Hazara expressed elation, but simply relief – and even then, it is often quickly put into check with the acknowledgement that their journey is not yet over.

Ali and his companions feel lucky to have arrived in Lesbos [Kevin Kusmez/Al Jazeera]

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Doctors step up fight to free children in immigration detention, citing mental and physical health concerns

October 30, 2015 | ABC News

Doctors in Melbourne rallied against holding children in detention earlier this month

Doctors in Melbourne rallied against holding children in detention earlier this month

Australia’s medical community is increasing pressure on the Federal Government to remove children from immigration detention, as more doctors come forward citing significant mental health concerns.

Paediatricians and other health workers are due to gather in Darwin, Adelaide and Sydney today to call on the Turnbull Government to remove all children and their families from immigration detention.

Paediatrician Joshua Francis told the ABC that it was clear that detention was harmful to children and to their families.

Dr Francis said he had treated children living in detention, who had presented with “significant psychological problems and very real impacts on their development”.

“We’re trying to deal with them on a situation here these children are living essentially in jail like environments in detention centres,” he said.

“It’s heartbreaking for me, not just as a paediatrician, but also as a father.”

Dr Francis said he would personally treat the issue on a case-by-case basis, but did not rule out refusing to discharge patients back into immigration detention.

Comment has been sought from Immigration Minister Peter Dutton.

The action follows that taken by Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital earlier this month, when almost 1,000 doctors, nurses and clinical support staff called on the Government to remove children from detention.

The hospital did not deny reports that they were refusing to discharge children in detention, saying it was a matter for “serious discussion” on a case-by-case basis.

The announcement coincides with a joint statement from maternal health groups, highlighting concerns for breastfeeding mothers in immigration detention.

Eight organisations, including the Australian Breastfeeding Organisation, said asylum seeker mothers needed appropriate support to continue breastfeeding including ensuring that mother and child are kept together if one needs medical treatment.

Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-10-30/doctors-step-up-fight-to-free-children-in-immigration-detention/6897514

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Man dies at Brisbane airport

October 30, 2105 | brisbane times

Refugee advocates say an Iranian man endured months of depression before he died at Brisbane Airport.

Refugee advocates say an Iranian man endured months of depression before he died at Brisbane Airport. Photo: Michelle Smith

A young Iranian man took his own life at the Brisbane airport on Tuesday, after what refugee advocates believe was months of depression and despair.

Supporters told Fairfax Media the man, thought to be either 25 or 26 years old, had travelled to Brisbane recently, after his release from a Melbourne hospital.

They said he was met by police at the airport and placed in a hotel, which he later left, returning to the airport in the early hours of Tuesday morning, and suicided.

A Queensland Police spokeswoman confirmed officers attended a non-suspicious sudden death at the Brisbane Airport on Tuesday and a report was being prepared for the Coroner.

A spokeswoman for the Australian Federal Police said the Queensland Police Service were the lead agency on the investigation.

The Immigration department was contacted for comment late on Wednesday night, when Fairfax Media first learnt of the death.

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection.responded on Thursday: “This is a matter for Queensland Police please direct your enquiry to them.”

Refugee advocates in both Brisbane and Melbourne had heard of the death, claiming the man had been attempting to seek help for mental health issues when he was discharged from the Royal Melbourne Hospital last week.

Investigations are continuing

Source http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/man-dies-at-brisbane-airport-20151028-gklbig.html#ixzz3q31D47sR

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Australian officials paid asylum seeker boat crew, Amnesty investigation alleges

October 29. 2015 | the guardian

A masked Indonesian crew member of an alleged people-smuggling boat is put on display behind a table of US dollar notes at a press conference on Rote Island in June.

 A masked Indonesian crew member of an alleged people-smuggling boat is put before the media alongside a table of US dollar notes at a press conference on Rote Island in June. The money was allegedly given to the crew of the boat by an Australian official to bring migrants back to Indonesia. Photograph: Indonesian police/EPA

Australian government officials may have engaged in people smuggling, by allegedly paying the crew of an asylum seeker boat to return its passengers to Indonesia, an Amnesty International investigation has found.

In May this year, the 65 passengers and six crew of an asylum seeker boat bound for New Zealand said they were intercepted by an Australian naval ship and an Australian Border Force vessel in international waters.

Australian government officials on board reportedly paid the crew of the vessel $32,000 – in US $100 bills – and instructed them to return the asylum seekers to Indonesia, directing them to Rote Island.

After interviewing all 65 passengers who were on board the ship, as well as the six crew and Indonesian officials, the Amnesty report press release concluded “all of the available evidence points to Australian officials having committed a transnational crime”.

On Thursday the immigration minister Peter Dutton said the government had already rejected the report’s allegations.

“To suggest otherwise, as Amnesty has done, is to cast a slur on the men and women of the Australian Border Force and Australian Defence Force.”

Anna Shea, a researcher on refugee and migrant rights with Amnesty UK, said evidence showed government officials were allegedly paying a boat crew, providing fuel and materiel, and giving instructions on where the boat should be sailed.

“People smuggling is a crime usually associated with private individuals, not governments – but here we have allegations that Australian officials are not just involved, but directing operations.

“When it comes to its treatment of those seeking asylum, Australia is becoming a lawless state.”

Australian officials reportedly intercepted the asylum seeker boat twice, on 17 May and 22 May.

Those on board said the ship was well-equipped and that no distress signal was sent at any time. The crew said the boat never entered Australian waters and had enough food and fuel on board to reach New Zealand.

In the second interdiction, the majority of asylum seekers boarded the Australian Border Force ship after allegedly being told they could bathe on board.

Once on board, however, they said they were held in cells for several days, before they were transferred to two smaller boats and instructed to sail for the island of Rote. One boat ran out of fuel, forcing all of its passengers onto the other. That boat foundered on a reef at Landu Island, near Rote, from where locals rescued the passengers.

On the original boat, the six crew claimed Australian officials gave them $32,000 – two of the men received $6,000, four $5,000 – in exchange for the crew agreeing to pilot the boat back to Indonesia.

One asylum seeker told Amnesty he allegedly witnessed a transaction between Australian officials and the ship’s captain in the kitchen of the boat, and saw the captain put a white envelope in his shorts pocket.

Shea told the Guardian the 62 passengers from the vessel were interviewed, as a group, on three separate occasions in Indonesian immigration detention in Kupang in West Timor, where they are currently being held.

The six crew, who are in police custody on Rote Island, were interviewed separately to the passengers.

“What was really remarkable was the degree of correlation and consistency in the testimony of the asylum seekers and the crew, who were held in different locations, and who were not in communication,” Shea said.

Indonesian police have reported they found $32,000 is US $100 bills on the crew. Amnesty researchers photographed the money confiscated.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/oct/29/australian-officials-paid-asylum-seeker-boat-crew-amnesty-investigation-alleges

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