Refugee Week

Nithi’s story

The Journey

Nithi fled his home country of Sri Lanka in 2012 due to the persecution he faced as a member of the Tamil community.  Leaving everything he loved was not easy, but he had no choice. With the international airport controlled by those he feared, fleeing by sea was his only option.

Arriving in Australia

After fourteen frightening days, the boat reached the Cocos Islands. He was transferred to Christmas Island Immigration Detention Centre, where he claimed asylum. After six months in two different immigration detention centres, he was released on a Bridging Visa to Geelong. Without work rights or the ability to study, surviving on the small government allowance was difficult. He shared a house with eight other Tamil boys to afford living expenses.

In 2016, he was granted a Safe Haven Enterprise Visa (SHEV). This five-year temporary visa came with no right to family reunion and required him to reapply and re-prove his refugee status. This left him in ongoing limbo, unable to reunite with his family or plan his future.

In 2023, he was finally granted permanent residency.

Giving Back

While on the SHEV visa, Nithi completed a Diploma in Community Services, enabling him to work as a Direct Care Worker.

In 2019, Nithi co-founded Tamil Welcome Feasts Queenscliff with three other Tamil refugees. This monthly event allows the community to enjoy Tamil cultural food and learn about his culture, his journey, and the difficulties faced by refugees in Australia.

Nithi believes sharing his refugee experience will help people understand refugees and asylum seekers. Nithi firmly believes in the power of storytelling, saying “I believe sharing my own refugee experience with the wider community, will help people gain a better understanding about refugees and people seeking asylum in Australia.”

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