Tuesday 23 August 2016
Ms O'CONNOR (Denison - Leader of the Greens) - Madam Speaker, I rise to make a personal appeal to the Premier on behalf of the Hazara people living in Tasmania. I have friends in the Hazara community for whom I am very concerned; I am sure there are other members of the House who share those concerns.
Members would be aware that the Hazara people are among the most persecuted of minorities. While they represent the third-largest ethnic group in Afghanistan, they have been subject to ethnic cleansing, systematic discrimination and attempted genocide in a campaign of persecution that dates back to the sixteenth century. Many thousands of Hazara people have been killed, expelled, and enslaved. By some estimates, more than half the Hazara of Afghanistan have been displaced. They fled into countries such as Iran and neighbouring Pakistan, where they remain a persecuted minority. They are persecuted by the Taliban, Al Qaeda, and now Daesh. On 23 July this year in Kabul, at a peaceful protest, 81 ethnic Hazara were killed. More than 230 were injured by twin suicide bombings. It was a peaceful protest. The Hazara community was asking the government in Kabul to ensure electricity reached their region.
The Hazara who live in Tasmania number around 1000 citizens. Very few of them have been granted either permanent residency or citizenship. We had this farcical and tragic situation. Despite the known fact it is not safe for any Hazara who have fled Afghanistan to be returned to Afghanistan, there are still people such as my friend Haji Alizare, and my friend Ali Almteri who live in a state of deep insecurity. They do not know if the Australian Government will decide to send them back to a country where they have lost family members and friends, and a place they fled in terror across land, across sea, by boat to Australia - for a safer life. Many Tasmanians who have embraced the Hazara people living among us. I urge the Premier to make a representation to the Prime Minister, to the Minister for Immigration, particularly on behalf of the Hazara people. They remain persecuted and in danger.
There was a very moving candlelight ceremony at the old Moonah Arts Centre on 27 July this year. The Hazara community of southern Tasmania came together to commemorate and honour the victims of the Kabul massacre of 23 July. Many people were there who were not of ethnic Hazara origin, and community leaders. It reinforced to the people there that the Hazara who live in Tasmania deserve the right to stay here, to be safe in our community, not to live in fear of being sent back to a place they have fled, because it is so dangerous to them. I hope the Premier can make that representation. There are many people living here on bridging visas, safe haven visas, but the events of 23 July in Kabul can surely only reinforce to the Australian Government and the Minister for Immigration, who seems to have a very hard heart, that Hazara who have come to Australia - the vast majority by boat - are genuine refugees for whom there is no safety, no comfort or future in Afghanistan.
We need as a community to stand by these people because they have so much to give. Haji wants to be a lawyer. He is studying English language. He is studying extra hard. He goes to extra classes at the university. He wants so much to be a lawyer and to give back. Ali wants to be a doctor. He, too, is attending lectures at the university. It is not part of a formal degree for him yet, or for Haji, but they have so much to give. They deserve an opportunity to feel secure, to be embraced in this very compassionate state, and to be able to give back - as they so desperately want to do.
Premier, I appeal to you, please make a representation on behalf of the estimated 1000 Hazara who are currently living in Tasmania.