Zahra, her husband, and 3 children have been in Australia for the past 4 years. Her eldest daughter won 2 scholarships to uni, the middle daughter is at high school and the little boy starts school next year. Zahra has a cleaning business, her husband works 6 days a week as a tiler. But their life is far from normal.
Zahra and her family are some of the unluckiest refugees. You see, Zahra and her family were the first family handpicked by the Australian Government to be sent to Nauru in 2013.
Picked randomly from the 24,000 people who arrived by boat at that time, little did the family know what living hell they would suffer over their 5 years in offshore detention on Nauru.
On arrival the family asked which building they were staying in. The security guards pointed to 3 white plastic tents in the middle of a large area covered in stones and dust. Army cots were their beds. A thin wall of plastic was their only privacy. The sobbing of children and distraught parents punctuated the hellish nights.
The climate on Nauru is equatorial, hot and humid throughout the year, with no dry season. No personal water bottles were allowed. Daily humiliation included queuing hours for a 2 minute shower, food and drinking water shortages, and having phone calls listened into by Security.
When they were sent to Nauru in 2013, Zahra and Mehdi had 2 children . They were 5 and 10 years old. By the time they escaped from the island hell hole, the two young girls had experienced things no child should ever experience.
Life was so unspeakable for the children detained on Nauru that their mental health deteriorated to such an extent, that the only way they could see to escape the nightmare, was to commit suicide. Kids would be so unwell that they couldn’t move and many stopped eating and drinking or leaving their bed.
The trauma of life in Nauru was inescapable. Zahra and her husband were told by medical staff that no matter how unwell the children were, the medical officials' job was to make sure no one left the island.
Horrors like sexual abuse and witnessing a young man burn himself to death, led to Zahra's children being unable to speak.
Now they are in Australia, but their torment hasn't ended.
The eldest daughter has had her study rights taken away, so she can't use her uni scholarship. The family are on a departure visa, which has to be renewed every 6 months. Each day they dread getting an intimidating phone call or an email from the Department of Immigration. Recently, they received an email saying that they had to relocate to the US. This correspondence has sent the family into a tail spin.
As Zahra says 'I am broken, I keep working hard, paying tax, trying to protect my children, but I have no rights, I have no hope - I can't go to another country. Australia has broken my children, their childhood was full of fear and abuse, they are traumatised.'
Zahra and her family are just one of many families in Australia right now living on a knife's edge. The Australian Government handpicked them to go to Nauru, knowing it was not fit for families, particularly little children. These families lived in inhumane conditions that felt like targeted torture.
By design, Australia allowed this to happen to these families. Then, when people were so broken they had to come to Australia for medical assistance, they were left to languish in legal limbo, without hope. Today, they are still suffering in torment. Relocation to another country is not an option.
How can broken people, broken by their experiences under the Australian Government's offshore detention, start another life in yet another country?
The people sent to the Nauru and Manus offshore hellholes are the unluckiest refugees. They did nothing wrong. They were picked at random. They need justice.
Please call for the Australian Government to put an end to this torment and grant refugees who were sent to Nauru and Manus permanent protection.