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‘We have nowhere else to go’: Asylum seekers stranded in Iran plead for help to return to Australia

Source: AAP

Multiple Asylum seekers on temporary protection visas who travelled to Iran for a reunion with their families are stuck there due to flight cancellations and issues with the permission from the Department of Home Affairs.

Several temporary protection visa holders who travelled overseas with permission from the Federal Government in January, say they are now stranded due to the coronavirus travel ban leaving them uncertain about how to return to Australia.

SBS Dari is aware of at least seven Temporary Protection Visa and Safe Haven Enterprise Visa holders who travelled to Iran – one of the worst-hit countries by COVID-19 -  with two-month permission from the Department of Home Affairs to meet their families but are now struggling to find their way back into Australia.


 

Highlights

  • Asylum seekers on temporary protection visas are stranded in Iran after travelling from Australia to meet their families
  • They say despite spending thousands of dollars on flight tickets, the airline staff didn't allow them to board the flight as their travel arrangement was at a later date
  • Those on temporary protection visas have to arrange their travel dates with the Department of Home Affairs if their travel plans change

The Afghan asylum seekers, not being able to go back to their families in Afghanistan, had arranged to meet them in Iran instead. But they say they have tried several times to return to Australia since the spread of the virus but airline staff didn’t allow them to board the plane.

“After my flight [with Emirates] got cancelled because of the coronavirus, I booked a Tehran-Doha-Perth ticket for $4000 to return to Australia, but when I went to the airport, I was told I can’t board the flight,” said an asylum seeker who was due to fly back to Australia on 24th March but decided to return sooner because of the travel bans.

SBS Dari understands the airline staff denied him boarding permission because he had not arranged for his return date with the Department of Home Affairs.

The stranded asylum seekers say they have requested for rearranging their travel but the Department of Home Affairs is yet to respond to their emails and issue them with a travel permission.

“We have asked the Australian government to allow us to come back to Australia because we have nowhere else to go,” said another man on condition of anonymity. 

One of them has been able to secure a travel permit from the Department and returned to Australia on Monday.

The Department of Home Affairs says temporary protection visa holders who are stranded overseas due to Australia’s travel ban can return to Australia by obtaining entry permission from the department.

A spokesperson of the Department said the entry arrangements for temporary protection visa holders are managed on a “case-by-case basis, consistent with visa conditions”.

“TPV and SHEV holders are encouraged to inform the Department of their travel arrangements to help facilitate this process, particularly where their plans have changed,” the spokesperson said.

The number of people infected with COVID-19 in Iran have surpassed 23,000 as of Monday and more than 1,800 people have died in the country after contracting the virus.

All overseas arrivals into Australia are required to self-isolate for fourteen days.