Asylum seeker PayAm received a letter saying ‘Australia is not an option’. He wasn’t the only one

Advocates for those seeking asylum in Australia have said letters sent by the Australian government to a number of refugees and asylum seekers urging them to resettle in other countries has caused immeasurable distress.
Numerous people who arrived by boat and have been living in Australia for a number of years have received letters stating: “Australia is not an option for you” and urging people to advise the Department of Home Affairs which country they will resettle in.
Centre director at the Refugee Advice & Casework Service Sarah Dale said similar letters had been sent to asylum seekers across Australia who had arrived in Australia by boat in the past nine years.
This is in line with the policy introduced by then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd that anyone who arrived in Australia by boat on or after 19 July 2013, and was sent to either Papua New Guinea or Nauru for offshore processing,
Both major parties support a policy of not allowing asylum seekers who arrived by boat to settle permanently in Australia.

Australia has signed deals with the United States and New Zealand to resettle refugees who arrived by boat. The deal with the US, signed in 2016, is to resettle 1,250 refugees by the end of this year.

PayAm and his family (not pictured) were held in Nauru as part of Australia’s offshore processing regime. Source: AAP / Rick Rycroft

In March this year, Australia took up an offer from New Zealand to accept 150 refugees a year over the next three years.

The Refugee Council of Australia said more than 1,000 people have been resettled in the US so far and it’s been reported that 36 people have taken up the offer to resettle in New Zealand.
The deals include asylum seekers sent for offshore processing to Papua New Guinea and Nauru as well as others who have been evacuated to Australia to receive medical treatment.
One of the letters, seen by SBS News gave a deadline of 29 September for the recipient to tell government authorities of their plans.
The letter, signed by Alana Sullivan, First Assistant Secretary for the People Smuggling Policy and Implementation Taskforce, indicated the intended recipient had withdrawn from resettlement in the United States and urged them to “re-engage” with United States resettlement.
The letter reads in part: “The Australian Government is strong against people smuggling and irregular maritime ventures. It will not allow any person who entered Australia by boat without a valid visa and is subject to regional processing to settle in Australia.
“Settlement in Australia is not an option for you.

“I understand that you recently withdrew from United States resettlement. The United States is offering you a genuine opportunity for permanent resettlement. Individuals already settle in the United States report positive experiences”.

A letter

The letter obtained by SBS. Credit: Supplied

Other letters are understood to contain a similar message relating to New Zealand resettlement offers.

Ms Dale said the letters were not part of a process under any sort of legislation.
“As it stands the Australian government cannot force a person to resettle in a third country – that process must be voluntary,” she said.
Centre for Asylum Seekers, Refugees and Detainees general manager Alison Xamon said the letter’s message, alongside the idea there was a deadline to meet, had caused immeasurable distress to these people, many of whom were dealing with trauma.
“These people don’t have access to ready legal support and many are looking at what’s happening in America at the moment with increasing divisions within the American community and worry what it would mean to go live in the USA,” she said.

“There is also great uncertainty in the New Zealand option. We are asking the government to consider these people on a case-by-case basis.”

‘I don’t have a country’

Iranian asylum seeker PayAm’s* letter also suggested he and his family may “prefer to voluntarily return home.”

“Which country? I don’t have a country,” he said.

PayAm’s parents fled from Iraq to Iran in the 1970s when they were no longer welcome in Iraq because of their Iranian heritage. As an adult, he and his wife and children were forced to flee Iran after being persecuted because of his connections to Iraq.
He and his family have been living in the community since 2016. His third child was born in Australia and they want to remain here.
PayAm’s family is dealing with mental health issues he said were exacerbated by their detainment and treatment in detention in Australia and Nauru.
He said receiving the letter added to his stress and he did not want to leave Australia.
PayAm also does not understand why the Australian government will not allow him and his family to stay permanently in Australia.

Ms Dale said Australia’s immigration policy over the past decade had been arbitrary.

“And one of total lottery depending on whether your boat arrived on a certain date, depending on whether your boat arrived at a certain point in Australia’s geography, depending on whether you were picked to be transferred to PNG or Nauru, or you were one of the lucky ones that remained in Australia,” she said.
“So it’s very understandable that people can wonder, well, somebody that I arrived with, they’re not affected by this policy, someone who escaped the same situation in our home country, they’re not affected by this policy.”
While some asylum seekers such as PayAm had been hopeful Labor coming into power earlier in the year could provide them with more certainty around a future in Australia, Ms Dale said it was clear the current government’s position remained much the same as its predecessor.
“We have not had a clear message in regard to the government’s plan to convert people from Temporary Protection Visas to permanent protection visas. And thus, all people that have sought asylum in Australia are confused about their status and are hopeful that compassionate approach would apply to them also.”
The Department of Home Affairs has been contacted for comment.

*Name changed to protect identity.

File source

Show More

Related Articles

Back to top button