For­mer refugee calls for greater con­sid­er­a­tion

Western Suburbs Weekly - - News - Lisa Thomas

SU­DANESE-BORN Aus­tralian Afeif Is­mail moved to the western sub­urbs in 2003 with his fam­ily af­ter flee­ing his home and spend­ing three years as a refugee in Egypt.

The poet, author and hu­man rights ac­tivist was granted a hu­man­i­tar­ian visa to Aus­tralia af­ter the coun­try was taken over by Is­lamic ide­ol­ogy in a mil­i­tary coup.

Mr Is­mail, who works for the Autism As­so­ci­a­tion of WA in Shen­ton Park, said he es­caped a coun­try that had lost democ­racy, where he was ar­rested and beaten and watched other peo­ple be­ing tor­tured just for speak­ing against mil­i­tary forces.

Af­ter ar­riv­ing in Aus­tralia, he met Curtin Greens can­di­date Viv Glance, who helped him with his writ­ing in English ev­ery week. “Writ­ing is my mis­sion in life,” he said. “Wher­ever I travel, I look for peo­ple with sim­i­lar in­ter­ests. The har­vest is four pro­duced plays, four books of po­etry, one book of short sto­ries and three books of po­etry ready for brave pub­lish­ers.”

This week is Refugee Week, which raises aware­ness of the is­sues af­fect­ing refugees and cel­e­brates their con­tri­bu­tion to Aus­tralian so­ci­ety.

Mr Is­mail said he en­cour­aged Aus­tralians to op­pose fear-mon­ger­ing cam­paigns about asy­lum seek­ers and in­stead con­sider why peo­ple were seek­ing asy­lum.

“For my­self and others from Su­dan, it was when your home be­comes a prison cell and ev­ery step you take feels like walk­ing through a mine­field, or your vil­lage burns to ashes, or some evil men from gov­ern­ment­funded mili­tias force other men to watch as they rape their mothers, daugh­ters and sis­ters in front of their help­less cry­ing eyes,” he said.

“That is more than enough rea­son to flee in hope of find­ing shel­ter and safety, even if it means cross­ing the desert bare­foot or cross­ing oceans by any means.”

Mr Is­mail said ac­cord­ing to the Hu­man Hights dec­la­ra­tion, it was not a crime to seek asy­lum.

“Aus­tralia needs to meet its obli­ga­tions as a sig­na­tory to the in­ter­na­tional laws. Aus­tralia is a mul­ti­cul­tural coun­try, and refugees only add to its di­ver­sity,” he said.

“Di­ver­sity cre­ates new di­men­sions and ex­pands our hori­zons as peo­ple.”

Pic­ture: Martin Ken­nealey­mu­ni­ d455707

Afeif Is­mail be­lieves refugees add to Aus­tralia’s di­ver­sity.

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