A Refugee’s StoryIm (Khalid) Walid Zazai, and last week I had my 24th birthday. It was the 4th birthday I have had here in Australian Owned and Run detention Centre in Manus Island, Papau New Guinea.

I would like to start by recognizing this day, the 17th of February. It is a sad day and a day we will never forget. Three years ago today, Reza Barati was murdered. We lost a kind and caring friend. His parents lost a son to unjust policies and Australia gained blood on their hands. 

Sadly, His death is not the only one to remember today. It is with constant grief and anger at injustice we also remember Hamid Kehazei, Kamil Hussain and Faysal Ishak Ahmed.

We won’t forget them.
I am the eldest child of my kind parents. My mum is still alive. And I have 7 younger siblings.

At the age of 20 I needed to flee my home country of Afghanistan due to the Taliban finding out I was working in US military camp. The Taliban is no stranger to my community, and even they have caused much heartache with my own immediate family.

I had to leave Afghanistan in the July 2013 and after a month of travelling I landed via boat on Christmas Island in Australia on 3rd of Aug 2013.

At that time the government had made these very hard policies, and I was flown to Manus, against my will, on the 16th January 2014.

And I have been held here ever since. 

There has been much written about how horrible the detention centre is. So I won’t focus on the queues, the fact that we are daily treated like criminals, the food quality, the hygiene, the putrid smells, the sticky and oppressive heat, the room size, the lack of privacy or the sound of men crying you can hear at night.

Instead I thought I would speak briefly on what opportunities have been stolen from us as the immigration policies have robbed our liberty.

For nearly four years we have not been able to see our family, neither the family we left, or for many of us the family, we were trying to reach. For some that has meant not seeing their parents or siblings, but for others it is has meant not seeing their wife or their children.

For nearly four years we have not been able to work. We cannot use our skills and our abilities. We cannot earn money. 

 And this fact robs us of so many other things. 

 We cannot support our families – and many of us in here should be the primary care giver in our families. All of us here cannot even help our families put food on their tables.  

 But it is not just our families we want too help, this world is hurting, so many people need help. We want to work to help widows, and orphans, and homeless people. We want to help. And financially we are not able to.

For nearly four years we have not been able to further our education, to learn new skills, or upskill so that we can find work when we are finally free.

For nearly four years we have not been able to meet new people and to be part of a healthy community. 

For nearly four years some have not been able to see their wives, or their fiancés, or for the rest of us to meet new girls. We all long for special smiles and tender hands and soft lips. We all long for love. And that opportunity has been robbed from us.

For nearly four years we have not been able to do ANYTHING. The same nothing everyday for nearly four year.

The Australian government says that ‘we are stopping the boats’ or ‘we are saving lives at sea’ and that is how they justify us being held indefinitely. But they are slowly killing us all daily. Are our lives not worth saving?

Last April the supreme Court in PNG ordered the governments to immediately take steps to end the detention of asylum seekers in PNG. What has changed? 

We are still here. 

Then recently the Australian government announced a deal with America. 

We are still here

I would like to finish by firstly thanking our hard working and loud advocates and all lovely and kind people who are supporting and standing with us. We see you. We hear you. We feel your love❤. Thank you.

And lastly, to the government. Why have you not obeyed international law? Why have you not listen to the UNHCR, the UN, Save the Children, Red Cross or Amnesty International. Please, we beg you, listen to us, the people you are slowly killing in these detention centres. We want to work, we want to provide for people and our loved ones. We want to really live and we want to love. Please Australian Government, you hold our future in your hands. Please stop abusing it and let us really live. Please give us our freedom.

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