As Hazaras are grieving for their families who are being killed daily by militias in Pakistan, the confusion about who said what and who promised what, grows.
The fact is that the Australian government is desperate to stop Hazaras coming by boat. They are talking to groups around Australia and Indonesia urging them to tell their families to wait and “come the right way”.
Trouble is the increase in visas promised as the only positive out of the Expert Panel offshore program, has not materialised. Families who have waited up to 5 years for visas are seeing no hope of ever getting out. Meanwhile a quick trip to the shops for food can result in death. No one is sure that children will come home from sschool or mothers from the market place. Both the Humanitarian visa path and the Sponsored visa pathways are blocked by bureaucratic hurdles such as DNA tests, Health tests and ID can only be done in Islamabad-, a life threatening journey of 900 ks from Quetta by bus.
My informant tells me that often the Pakistan bus companies are refusing to carry Hazaras because they say that they are a risk, that the Taliban will target them if they see two or three Hazaras sitting in the bus. as if this hurdle was not enough now DIAC are demanding that wives travel back to Kabul inorder to get their taskeras stamped by the ministry there. The DNA tests can only be done by DIAC accredited laboratories in Australia. The test which costs an Australia $300, costs an adult Hazara $1500 and a child $750. The test is a simple mouth swab.
Those without family who are in danger have to rely on applying as a refugees.they too have insurmountable hurdles. See below Australia says plan only for refugees but they don’t say that no one can get into the Quetta office of the UNHCR to place an applicction. this office was closed for two years because of security concerns. Now the UN office is open but impossible to get in. Hazaras have to pass through 4 checkpoints showing a letter of invitation, ID documents and or Passport. As we know only too well refugees don’t often have documents. As for the letter of invitation, one man I spoke to said that UNHCR could help by posting this letter out after a phone call invitation. While many live in houses without numbers etc- letters could be sent to local shops. Without a letter they have no hope to get in the door. Until they ghet in the door they cannot get a letter. This man who has come through the system told me that only 2 or 3 out of a hundred are ever accepted- that is 97%. In 2010 there were 700 applications in process- few were accepted.
Meanwhile buses and the market places carry Australian posters telling people not to travel by boat because it is too dangerous.
So when Australia says that they will only accept UNHCR designated refugees – this means that there is no formal pathway to Australia as a refugee.
Australia’s asylum plan ‘only for refugees’
ISLAMABAD, Feb 21: Australia on Thursday denied it had launched any special asylum programme for the Hazaras, the target of the recent terrorist attacks in Quetta.
“Australia is sympathetic to communities affected by sectarian violence and acts of terrorism. While Australia’s offshore Humanitarian Programme has been increased in 2012-13, there are no new arrangements for particular ethnicities or people from a particular part of any country,” the Australian High Commission said in a statement, contradicting a report in Dawn on Thursday headlined “2,500 Hazara families offered asylum”.
Terming the report “incorrect”, it said: “Australia is not introducing a new programme to resettle Hazaras out of Pakistan and Australia’s ongoing resettlement programme is only for refugees.”
Australia’s priority is to assist those refugees who are the most vulnerable. Refugees, including the Afghan Hazaras wanting to be resettled in Australia, must be recognised by the UNHCR as meeting the criteria for refugee status.
To be considered for resettlement, they must be among the most vulnerable, said the statement.