Immigration

‘Love at first sight’: Refugee who met his wife on Manus pleading to stay

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Refugee Alex Rashid met the love of his life on Manus Island, now he's fighting to stay with her and his family.

One of the few refugees on Manus to resettle in Papua New Guinea has pleaded with the government to give him citizenship so he can stay with his young family.

Alex Harun Rashid does not want to go to Australia. Unlike most refugees, he wants to spend the rest of his life on the island.

The Rohingya man has two children with his local partner but said he has no documents to allow him to live or work in the country.

The couple found love in an unlikely place, the shadow of Australia’s off-shore immigration detention centre.

A chance meeting between Mr Rashid and his now-partner Molly Noan led to love at first sight.

“When I saw him I was like ‘wow’,” Ms Noan, 21, said of Mr Rashid.

Their love grew and led to a marriage proposal after Mr Rashid voluntarily left the Manus Island detention centre two years ago to resettle in PNG.

“I saw it is similar my country, same village life,” the 26-year-old told SBS News, while sitting alongside his partner and children inside his adopted home.

I asked Molly: ‘I want to marry with you’ and she said, ‘okay’, so I married and I already have the two children…now everything is okay, I’m very happy.”

Now with a young family on Manus, Alex Rashid never wants to leave.
Now with a young family on Manus, Alex Rashid never wants to leave.
SBS News

The couple’s pride and joy are their children: 18-month-old Mohammed and four-month-old Almiera.

It’s been four years since Mr Rashid fled Myanmar for the safety of Australia. But he never imagined he would end up in PNG. 

“In my country, Rohingya people… the government kill, rape the girls and burn their houses,” he claimed. 

He came by boat from Indonesia, was sent to Manus Island via Christmas Island, and was recognised as a refugee by the PNG government.

Now with a young family on Manus, he never wants to leave but his future is far from certain.

In a Romeo and Juliet-like story, Ms Noan’s family initially disapproved of their relationship.

“At first they didn’t like the idea because he’s a refugee...” she said.

Now they have welcomed him, as has the wider community.

He said he is desperate to support his family and stay on the island, but said he gets no resettlement support and has no work permit.

Mr Rashid is skilled as an electrician and makes a little money fixing computers.

“Right now I don’t have any proof card, ID card, like citizen, this card, I don’t have anything whatsoever,” he said.

“Please, please give me citizenship…give me settlement in Manus with my family, that’s it.”

Successive governments have vowed that no Manus refugees would ever come to Australia. PNG has agreed to resettle them but not on Manus.

He said PNG authorities told him that he must first live in Port Moresby, or another city, for a year or more before he could return to the island to live permanently.

“I don’t want to go to Australia, I don’t want to go America, I don’t want to go anywhere, I just want to stay with my family. And stay forever in Manus,” he said.

Many people in the small Manus main town of Lorengau – which has a population of about 7,000 - do not want the 700 male refugees and asylum seekers who were in the former detention centre settled on the island.

“Manus people are normal and simple type but they are peaceful. If you seem good, you talk good, you respect, then they respect. If you behave badly then they also badly,” he said.

“I am a guest. Everywhere I go I feel safe, more than, better than in my country,” he said.

The young couple has one simple request:

“I would like them (PNG) to give him citizenship because I’d like to live a normal life with him because I’m happy living with Alex. I am happy, very happy and I can’t lose him,” Ms Noan said. 

Find out how you can help the Rohingya fleeing violence in Myanmar here. 

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