Refugee Week

Assadullah Khurrami

My name is Assadullah Khurrami, I am a former asylum seeker from Afghanistan. I arrived to Australian on a boat in 2010 and I spent a year in Immigration Detention Centres in Christmas Island and in Curtin Western Australia.

I was born and raised in Kabul Afghanistan in a happy and supportive family. As far as I remember from my childhood, Kabul was a beautiful, safe and busy city. I remember the blue river of Kabul, beautiful schools, tram buses and most importantly its lovely and caring people. When the civil war begun in 1992 in Kabul, we experienced the worst of this war; our house was hit by rocket shelling, I lost a brother, my mother and I were severely injured. We started to feel that we are being discriminated against based on our ethnic background and religious belief.

We started migrating internally until we were forced to flee to Pakistan and seek refuge there for at least 10 years until 2002. Under the most difficult circumstances, and after a two-year break, I was able to continue my primary and high school studies in Pakistan. We were not allowed formal education, but we had to study informally and our qualifications / certificates were not recognised by any authorities.

I repatriated to Afghanistan in 2002, I begun working as an Interpreter with the US Army and two international organisations for two years until I found a stable job with the United Nations reconstruction, peacebuilding and disarmament programs in Kabul and Central Afghanistan. After I was exposed to many risks and threats due to my service for a better Afghanistan, I then joined the New Zealand and US armed forces as an Interpreter in 2006 where I could feel safer to work with the enemies of my enemies until 2010. Besides my paid employment, I was also volunteering in education and social sectors to teach English and computer classes in regional areas of Afghanistan.

For the peaceful and democratic Afghanistan that I had committed my services, I was exposed as a person of interest to the Taliban. I received multiple death threats and I was attacked on two different occasions. I had to flee my homeland once again after learning that the local authorities or the Afghan government was unable to protect my family and myself.

I first tried to come to Australia legally in between 2008 and 2009 but I was imprisoned for six months and deported back to Afghanistan. I started working and aimed to stay in Afghanistan but nine months later I was forced to flee again when my family and I were attacked by the Taliban in 2010. I took my family to Pakistan and I managed to get to Indonesia to find resettlement options.

Before arriving to Australia, I spent four months in Indonesia and on the border towns of Papua New Guinea. In Indonesia I registered with the UNHCR to seek asylum and come to Australia or any other country that will legally accept me, but the wait time for the resettlement process was over four years. I couldn’t wait for four years in Indonesia since my family was in refuge in Pakistan. For an asylum seeker, life in Indonesia was extremely difficult and the risk of imprisonment by the police was high. I didn’t want to go to prison again. I wanted to reach a safe shore and then bring my family to safety.

I found a smuggler and got on a fishing boat to Australia. I spent four weeks on the water until we were intercepted by the Australian Navy.

When I was in immigration detention centres in Australia, I taught English and computer classes to the asylum seekers, helped them read and understand their protection claims and communicate with the immigration and administration staff. I also represented the asylum seekers as their spokesperson during this time.

After a year in detention, I was released on humanitarian protection and was taken to Tasmania. Shortly after arrival, I joined the workforce in Australia and got a job in Perth as a Humanitarian Settlement Services Case Manager in the refugee sector. I was welcomed to Australia by many wonderful people that I had met during this journey and I loved being here and giving back to the Australian community. I was able to bring my family to Australia after a difficult three years. I have two wonderful sons, they go to school and play cricket. I now work as a Team Leader for the Australian Red Cross Migration Support Programs and I also volunteer as a Steering Committee Member for National Refugee led Advisory and Advocacy Group supporting and empowering the refugee communities in Australia. During this time, I have also earned a Graduate Diploma in Community Sector Management and currently undertaking a post graduate qualification in Public Policy and Management. I also speak for the Refugee Council of Australia and share my settlement journey to educate the wider public on refugee and asylums seeker conditions.

I look forward to continuing contributing to the Australian communities, be an active member of this community and raise my children to be good humans.

Life in Australia is beautiful, we are proud to call Australia home and we are now Australian citizens.

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