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Australia Refugees in limbo: Visa uncertainty makes trauma worse

16:40  15 december  2019
16:40  15 december  2019 Source:   brisbanetimes.com.au

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It also suspends entry of all refugees for 120 days and bars Syrian refugees indefinitely. Lawyers are struggling to understand what the visa ban means. “There’s a lot in here that is subject to He said the language made clear that nationals from the seven countries “appear to be banned for 90 days

Book lover. Engineer. Democrat. Zoroastrian. For these “crimes” against Iran, Mehdi Hamidpour was persecuted and his children thrown out of school. Mr Hamidpour fled when he was placed on a blacklist that usually preceded people being “disappeared”, he said.

With no visas, the family of four sailed for 14 days on an overcrowded fishing boat from Indonesia to Australia in March 2011. It was “terrible” – so traumatic that Mr Hamidpour, 52, finds it “too much” to discuss. “It is too hard to get mentally settled,” he said.

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Some refugees that were previously denied entry started to arrive on Monday with others scrambling to make travel arrangements. That same official could not confirm whether the processing of refugees , which had previously been halted, had resumed as the main focus is on getting already approved

So still, even those few found to be refugees wait, caught in a half-life of uncertainty and When he was returned to Lorengau, he says, he was abused by other refugees who threatened to kill him for supporting “They are in very bad situation because of much depression. They lost hope with their life.

a group of people posing for the camera: Mehdi Hamidpour,  left, in Iran. He was persecuted and fled, seeking asylum in Australia.© supplied Mehdi Hamidpour, left, in Iran. He was persecuted and fled, seeking asylum in Australia.

A world-first study tracking 1100 refugees over three years has found that people who come to Australia seeking asylum – with no certainty refugee status will be granted – are nearly two and a half times more likely to think about killing themselves or to believe “they would be better off dead” than those with more secure visas.

People with insecure visa status are also two to four times more likely than secure visa holders to have been tortured and imprisoned, and to have witnessed friends, family and strangers being raped, assaulted and killed, says the long-term study on refugee adjustment, which will be published on Monday.

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That includes nearly 2,000 refugees scrambling to resettle here. So in the present moment, we just have to make sure that we are following the legalities in this whole question so we don't put anybody in difficulty. GARCIA-NAVARRO: How does this uncertainty affect these very vulnerable populations?

“Most of the world’s 23 million refugees and people seeking asylum live in a state of sustained uncertainty, but we don’t know a lot about the mental health impact of that prolonged insecurity,” said the lead author, Associate Professor Angela Nickerson, director of the Refugee Trauma and Recovery Program at the University of New South Wales (UNSW).

Mahlathini wearing a hat and smiling at the camera: Ajak Kwai came to Australia on a refugee visa organised by the Red Cross with the United Nations, issued in Egypt.© Eddie Jim Ajak Kwai came to Australia on a refugee visa organised by the Red Cross with the United Nations, issued in Egypt.

Around 1400 people are living in detention in Australia while their visa status is determined. Refugee groups estimate that, since 2010, 19 people have taken their own lives while in detention in Australia or on Manus Island or Nauru, or while on bridging visas in the community.

To be published in the European Journal of Psychotraumatology, the UNSW research is the first major study to show that insecure visa status is associated with greater post-traumatic stress, symptoms of depression, and suicidal intent. Of the 1100 refugees it is tracking, 259 people have insecure visa status (those seeking asylum or on bridging or temporary visas) and 826 have secure status (refugees who have become permanent residents or citizens). Around 170 of the 1100 have been in detention.

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Professor Nickerson said those with insecure visa status had been “traumatised in a more extreme and interpersonal way than those with secure visas”.

Often they had little choice but to leave their homes quickly, under circumstances possibly “prompting urgent flight and necessitating perilous boat journeys”, the paper says.

Those on insecure visas also faced more stress once they arrived in Australia, which was exacerbated by their experiences in detention. Nearly all were terrified of being sent home and most worried about those they'd left behind.

But this group tended to receive more support from community and religious groups than those refugees with secure visas. This “appeared to protect against depression symptoms and suicidality,” the research found.

In detention in Darwin for nearly two months, Mr Hamidpour organised social activities including basketball to keep fellow detainees active. This made him the “happiest man in detention”. Now working in a senior administrative job in aged care in Sydney, he has continued to stay involved with community groups.

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Rising religious extremism in Indonesia could make things worse , experts warn. “These refugees , seeing the rise of sectarianism and Sunni militancy in Refugees in Medan who have trained as hairdressers now regularly cut hair for local and street children, while furniture made by migrants is

The eight travelers, including children, are unwilling to return home because of political uncertainty and unable to secure visas to a third country. Thai immigration officials said the family members had applied to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in the hope of obtaining refugee status.

Ajak Kwai from Sudan arrived in Australia on a secure humanitarian refugee visa issued in Egypt, yet she felt isolated, vulnerable and acutely aware that she stood out as a black woman when she was sent to near Hobart, Tasmania.

Now a professional singer living in Melbourne, Ms Kwai worries about the mental health of Sudanese refugees. Depression had “hit [the community] very hard” some resulting from the racism that many in her community had experienced. “We see young people take their own lives. It didn't happen where I come from.”

“We are the black people in Australia. Being that dark is the recipe for failing in the western world,” she said.

Vicki Mau, head of migration support programs for the Australian Red Cross, said the study provided important new evidence. “It indicates how we can keep people safe and recognise and support their contributions to our community, as well as the importance of certainty for those recovering from significant trauma.”

The longitudinal study is the result of a partnership between UNSW Sydney, Australian Red Cross, Settlement Services International, and Phoenix Australia at the University of Melbourne.

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