Zaki Haidari is a tireless advocate for refugee rights who fled Afghanistan as an unaccompanied teenager and applied for asylum in Australia. He currently has a temporary protection visa instead of a permanent protection visa.
Zaki currently holds the role of Leadership Coordinator at Jesuit Refugee Service, Australia, and will soon take up a national campaign role at Amnesty International. In this piece, Zaki reflects on the changes ahead for him and others, given Labor’s victory in Australia’s 2022 federal election.
Congratulations, Australia, for supporting humanity, compassion, and action on climate change!
Congratulations to thousands of refugees who will feel safe and call Australia their permanent home.
For the past few weeks, watching the election campaign has been nerve-wracking for me, thousands of refugees, and refugee supporters, as the outcome of the elections has been a matter of life and death for many refugees. Harsh refugee policies have taken many lives over the past ten years as people succumbed to hopelessness and despair, and we cannot afford to lose any more friends.
The incoming Labor government has promised that refugees with temporary protection visas – those with Temporary Protection Visas (TPVs) and Safe Haven Enterprise Visas (PHEVs) – will receive tickets to stay in Australia permanently. TPVs and SHEVs are short-term visas valid for 3 and 5 years, respectively. Under these temporary visas, refugees are not eligible to sponsor their families, not suitable for benefits, and are not eligible to buy a home, or obtain loans.
Refugees on temporary visas have been separated from their wives, husbands, children, and loved ones for more than a painful decade. Now, with the change of government, they have the real prospect of reuniting with them. What a pleasure! I can only imagine the conversations they would have had with their families on election night. They have been forced to lie to their children repeatedly over the past ten years and tell them they will reunite soon when they know they can’t bring them here. But now it will be a reality, and they won’t have to lie anymore. I hear the joy in their voices! That feeling of being together as a family in a safe country can finally come true.
Harsh refugee policies have taken many lives over the past ten years as people succumbed to hopelessness and despair, and we cannot afford to lose any more friends.
Congratulations to thousands of young refugees who have completed secondary school but could not attend university because they did not qualify for the paid aid. Now they can study, go to university and build their future. Due to the refugee policy, these refugees felt no match for their partner with whom they grew up. Now they can finally feel that they are equal people, equal to their friends and that they can make their own life decisions.
Thousands of refugees are excited about the new government and hope for all these positive things that we trust will happen soon. But at the same time, it is also very sad. So many people could not attend this day, including some of my good friends. Australia’s brutal refugee policy has claimed so many lives, and as a result, so many people are not with us today. I only wish that not so many people were tortured as we think and that they didn’t end their lives in the past ten years because of the harsh refugee policies that kept them in limbo and separated from their families.
Today thousands of us are celebrating and looking forward to reuniting with our families and loved ones soon.
Thank you, Australians, for choosing humanity over cruelty. It was a day to celebrate that we will remember for the rest of our lives, but we know there is still more work to be done. Thousands of other refugees and I look forward to calling Australia our permanent home. I will continue to fight for justice, and refugee rights until refugees get their permanent visas and reunite with their families and loved ones.