Afghan refugee Zaki: 'Thank you, Australians, for choosing humanity over cruelty'

Zaki Haidari is a tireless advocate for refugee rights, having himself fled Afghanistan and sought asylum in Australia as an unaccompanied teenager. He is currently on a temporary protection visa rather than a permanent protection visa.

Zaki currently holds the role of Leadership Coordinator at Jesuit Refugee Service, Australia, and will soon be taking on a national campaigning role with Amnesty International. In this piece, Zaki reflects on the changes ahead for himself and others, given Labor’s win at Australia’s 2022 Federal Election.

Post Election 2022

Congratulations, Australia, for backing humanity, compassion, and action on climate change!

Congratulations to thousands of refugees who will feel safe and be able to call Australia their permanent home.

For the past few weeks, watching the election campaign was nerve-wracking for me, thousands of refugees and refugee supporters because the result of the election was a matter of life and death for many refugees. The harsh refugee policies have already taken many lives in the past 10 years, as people succumbed to hopelessness and despair, and we can’t afford to lose more friends.

The incoming Labor Government has promised that refugees on temporary protection visas – those on Temporary Protection Visas (TPVs) and Safe Haven Enterprise Visas (SHEVs) –will be granted visas that will allow them to stay in Australia permanently. TPVs and SHEVs are only short term visas that last for 3 and 5 years, respectively. Under these temporary visas, refugees are not eligible to sponsor their families, are not eligible for fee-help, and are not eligible to buy a house or to get loans.

Refugees on temporary visas have been apart from their wives, husbands, children, and loved ones for over a painful decade. Now finally, with the change of government, they have the real prospect of reuniting with them. What a joy! I can only imagine the conversations they would have had on election night with their families. They have been forced to lie to their children so many times over the past 10 years, telling them that they will reunite soon while knowing they could not bring them here. But now, it will be a reality, and they will not need to lie anymore. I can hear the joy in their voices! That feeling of being together again as a family in a safe country may now finally come true.

The harsh refugee policies have already taken many lives in the past 10 years, as people succumbed to hopelessness and despair, and we can’t afford to lose more friends.

Congratulations to thousands of young refugees who finished high school but could not go to university because they were not eligible for the fee-help. Now they can study, go to university and build their future. The refugee policies made these refugees feel unequal to their mates with whom they grew up. Now finally, they can feel that they are equal human beings, equal to their friends, and they can make their own life decisions.

Thousands of refugees are very excited about the new government and hopeful for all these positive things that we trust will happen in the near future. However, it is also very sad at the same time. So many people could not make it to see this day, including some of my close friends. Australia’s cruel refugee policies have taken so many lives, and so many people are not with us today as a result. I only wish that so many people were not tortured, as we feel we have been, and did not end their lives over the last 10 years because of the tough refugee policies that kept them in permanent limbo and apart from their families.

Today, there are thousands of us that celebrate and look forward to reuniting with our families and loved ones soon.

Thank you, Australians, for choosing humanity over cruelty. It has been a day to celebrate, which we will remember for the rest of our lives, but we know there is still more work to do. I and thousands of other refugees are looking forward to calling Australia our permanent home, and I will keep fighting for justice and refugee rights until refugees get their permanent visas and reunite with their families and loved ones.