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Ex Afghan official stuck in visa limbo in Australia

Source: Supplied

A recent report found that thousands of asylum seekers who arrived in Australia by boat before 2013 are "living in the shadows" with visa uncertainty. SBS Pashto talked to one of them, a former district governor of a province in Afghanistan who sought safety in Australia.

Lufullah Babakerkhel, a former district governor from eastern Afghanistan since 2001 has faced many threats.

He says he has survived several assassination attempts on his life including two roadside mines, car ambushes and two suicide attacks on his district office.

"I informed the Afghan government and also the Coalition forces that my life is in danger, but they didn’t take it seriously," he told SBS Pashto. 

Lutfullah Babakarkhel, former district governor in Afghanistan.
Supplied

Fearing for his and his family's safety Lufullah Babakerkhel came to Australia by boat in 2013.

"I secretly took my family to Pakistan and spent five nights there and then left towards Indonesia," he said.

"I spent around five months in Indonesia. I submitted my case to the UNHCR in Indonesia but they also didn’t take it seriously then I was forced to take a boat journey and came to Australia."

After spending eight nights on the boat he said he was intercepted by an Australian patrol.

Lufullah Babakerkhel
Photo of car hit by roadside bomb that Lufullah Babakerkhel claims he was in.
Supplied

After four years in an onshore detention centre in Australia Lufullah was released from the detention with a Temporary Protection Visa, for people who arrived in Australia illegally and want to apply for protection. 

On the 5 December 2014, legislation was passed to reintroduce Temporary Protection Visas to deal with the backlog of around 30,000 asylum seekers. 

"I don’t know why my case took that long; they don’t tell you about how your case is progressing. My case took four years, and I was telling them that my family, my children and I am in danger and was asking them to send me back or settle me in a third country, but no one gave me any positive or negative answers."

Legacy caseload

Around 30,000 people who arrived in Australia by boat before 2013 are suffering financial hardship and deteriorating mental health, according to a new report by the Human Rights Commission.  It says thousands of asylum seekers who arrived in Australia by boat before 2013 are "living in the shadows" with limited access to support services and visa uncertainty. 

They were among the 50,000 people who arrived in Australia by boat seeking asylum between 2009 and 2013.

Lufullah Babakerkhel
Lufullah Babakerkhel, seen in middle row, second from left.
Supplied

While some were granted substantive visas soon after their arrival, many have faced prolonged delays in processing their claims and have become known as the "legacy caseload". 

The Commission made over 30 recommendations including boosting mental health services and providing a pathway to permanent residency for those in the legacy caseload.

Lufullah says he is living in Australia with many restrictions.

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"It (the visa) doesn't allow me to go to Afghanistan and neither can I bring my family here and also can not submit my family and children's application. It is just releasing from the detention centre, but the issues are the same," he said.

In 2014, he was among almost 10,000 asylum seekers whose names, gender and boat arrival dates were accidentally published online in 2014.  

Lufullah says he fears for his children's safety.

"I left my family in a secret location in Pakistan and thought no one would discover them, but when I came to Australia, my secrecy was also exposed by the Australian government. My name was exposed by the data breach. I still can not say to anyone where my children are," he said.

Lutfullah Babakarkhel, former district governor in Afghanistan.
Supplied

The former district governor now works for a construction company and sends money back to his family in Afghanistan.

"We came to Australia as migrants to seek asylum; we want the protection and safety of our selves and our children. I couldn’t live in Afghanistan but also had no financial difficulties. I have not come for money," he said.