Nauru in the eye of a detainee
Nauru is back on the table with the Federal Government’s policy u-turn. Michael Rhee spoke to a former asylum seeker who was sent to Nauru.
When Abdul Ali Ghaznawi handed US$4,000 to his “handler”, he was told he would go somewhere safe.
He only found himself to be pursued by Border Protection Service officers on a small leaky fishing boat with 160 other asylum seekers.
“If your life is in danger, what are you going to do?” he said.
Ghazinawi fled from Afghanistan to Malaysia by plane. He then tried to get to Australia by boat, but was then sent to the detention centres in Nauru.
“They [the people smugglers] prepared for us passport, ticket and everything and they said that’s from there to Malaysia,” he said. “We didn’t understand where Malaysia was.”
Ghaznawi said he didn’t have any choice, except to risk his life to try to get on the journey.
“For myself, I thought maybe that’s their [the people smuggler's] plan — they took our money and they were throwing us into the sea,” he said. “Nobody could know that.”
“If your life is in someone’s hand, and they say ‘we’re sending you to a safe place,’ what are you going to do?”
The boat that carried Ghazinawi to Australia was eventually intercepted by the Border Protection Service, but not before the people smugglers led the officers on a 20-minute chase.
The boat eventually caught fire and the asylum seekers jumped into the water for their lives.
“Because we couldn’t swim, we couldn’t control ourselves,” he said. “Two ladies died.”
Things did not change for the better after Ghaznawi arrived into Australia. After spending one week in a detention centre, he was told he was going to Nauru.
There was no formal assessments on Ghaznawi’s refugee status in Nauru, only a sense of helplessness and despair.
“Some people cry; some people spoke with themselves; some people sing with themselves.”
Ghaznawi spent nearly three years in the detention centre in Nauru before it was shut down. He currently lives in Brisbane.
“It’s true that they shouldn’t let anyone come in,” he said. “Some people come here to make money, to do a business, to be a rich person, but some people come here to be safe. There is difference between these two.”
“If someone’s life is in danger and they’re seeking to be alive. You have to give them an opportunity to live.”
Michael Rhee is a producer of The Wire.