Celebrating refugees

Immigration minister Peter Dutton tabled a Bill in Parliament on Tuesday that will impose a lifetime ban on asylum seekers who come to Australia by boat. Labor announced it will oppose the ban while Mr Dutton is confident he has the support of cross-benchers.

Faith leaders from different denominations and religions have spoken out against the proposal. Uniting Church president Stuart McMillan called the ban “unconscionably harsh treatment” and urged senators and members of parliament to vote against the legislation.

The Australian Council of Christians and Jews also opposes the proposal and expressed concern at the government’s use of asylum seekers as “bargaining chips” to fight people smugglers.

As parliament prepares to debate the Bill, Crosslight looks at the contributions of refugees who have settled in Australia.

In the township of Mingoola, on the border of New South Wales and Queensland, refugee families are revitalising an ageing rural community.

The local primary school was on the verge of closing down because of low enrolment numbers and farmers struggled to find labourers to help with manual work. Under a new resettlement plan, three refugee families from Rwanda, Burundi and Congo migrated from Sydney and Adelaide to Mingoola.

It turned out to be a perfect fit – the majority of the refugees were farmers and felt more at home in the rural community than in the big cities.

One of the refugees is Isaac Icimpaye, who moved to Mingoola with his wife, Renata, and their nine children.

“What I like about Mingoola is that my children will grow with the same culture as we used to have back home,” Isaac Icimpaye told ABC’s Australian Story.

“In the city I used to just sit doing nothing but in Mingoola I grow vegetable and beans.”

A viral letter that circulated on social media last week detailed the life-changing impact of refugees living in Australia.

Five years ago, Allison France lost part of her leg after she was hit by an out-of-control car in a shopping centre. She was destined to spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair before she met Dr Munjed Al Muderis, an Iraqi refugee who came to Australia by boat.

Dr Al Muderis is the only surgeon in Australia who can perform osseointegration surgery, which involves inserting a titanium rod into the femur or thighbone to connect a prosthetic. Ms France can now walk again thanks to the revolutionary procedure.

“I owe my health, my ability to walk and have a decent quality of life with my children to Dr Al Muderis. As do many other Australians,” Ms France wrote in the letter addressed to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

“Under your new policy, he would never have made it to Australia. I urge you to reconsider your position on this issue and consider the welfare and happiness of Australians like me.”

And last week, the tragic death of a bus driver in Brisbane also saw the emergence of a reluctant hero. Former South Sudanese refugee Aguek Nyok was hailed for his bravery when he kicked the door of a burning bus to rescue all 11 passengers on board.

Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she will nominate Mr Nyok for a bravery award.

Another refugee who has been recognised for his courage is Deng Adut. He was taken from his family in Sudan when he was six-years-old and forced to fight as a child soldier.

He was smuggled into Kenya and eventually made his way to Australia, where he began studying law. He now works as a criminal lawyer and represents members of Sydney’s Sudanese community.

On Monday night, Mr Adut was named NSW Australian of the Year and is in the running for the 2017 Australian of the Year award.



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