Many refugees who have settled in Australia are too afraid to speak out about the country’s treatment of refugees, with some fearful their immigration status would be jeopardised, surgeon and former refugee Munjed Al Muderis has told Guardian Australia.

Earlier Al Muderis shared his experiences at the Sydney Opera House on Thursday during the ideas festival TEDxSydney 2015. After fleeing war-torn Iraq, he spent 10 months at Curtin Detention Centre in Western Australia in 1999 before being granted refugee status.

Al Muderis said many of his colleagues who had also been in detention “have this fear they will be persecuted if they talk”. One colleague warned him against speaking to the media, saying it might jeopardise his immigration status.

He also acknowledged a feeling of shame existed in the refugee community because of a view perpetuated by the government that Australians don’t welcome refugees, and said another friend – a “high-profile radio frequency engineer” – kept his refugee history a secret.

Al Muderis said during his time in detention he was deemed a troublemaker after he attempted to expose the conditions of the camp to the public. He befriended a guard who helped him smuggle in a camera and wrote letters to Amnesty International calling for the Human Rights Commission to investigate.
“I was falsely accused of being a ringleader and inciting problems in the detention centre,” he said.
The former refugee said it was important the Australian public realise “not all refugees are sucking taxpayer money and living on the dole. It’s very important to know asylum seekers and refugees are human like any other. We’re a slice of society: there is the bad, good and ugly.
“And it’s our duty as a country to work on people who are bad, to make them good.”

He said detaining asylum seekers for long periods could have negative impacts on these individuals and that the Australian government was failing to meet its obligations under the Geneva conventions, particularly by detaining children.
“When they are released into the community – and some of them will be found to be genuine refugees and be released – the last thing you want is people acting against the system just because they were treated badly in detention centre.”

He described arriving at the Curtin Detention Centre and having the number “982” drawn on his arm in permanent marker. “Our identity was completely stripped,” said.
He was given a toothbrush, toothpaste, towel and a pair of thongs and said the department of immigration had not prepared for an influx of refugees. “We spent several months in Royal Airforce tents, sleeping on stretchers,” he said. “I’m not whinging – the main thing was the fact that nobody asked me what my name was for several months.”

In his TEDx talk, Al Muderis described himself as one of only three practitioners in the world of osseointegration technology, a pioneering medical practice which combines robotics with prosthetic limbs. “I serve disabled people by making them half human and half machine,” he said.

In his TEDx talk, Al Muderis described himself as one of only three practitioners in the world of osseointegration technology, a pioneering medical practice which combines robotics with prosthetic limbs. “I serve disabled people by making them half human and half machine,” he said.

Al Muderis fled Baghdad after he refused demands made by Saddam Hussein’s regime that he along with his colleagues amputate the ears of army deserters. He faced possible execution for his refusal.
After flying to Kuala Lumpur, he enlisted the assistance of a smuggler who helped him reach Jakarta, Indonesia. From there he was “crammed with 165 people on a leaky boat” before arriving on Christmas Island, Australia.
He described his 10 months spent in the Curtin Detention Centre as “hell on earth”.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/may/21/former-refugee-now-medical-pioneer-warns-against-detaining-asylum-seekers?CMP=soc_567

Advertisements