Voice for refugees

WHEN Mitty O'Shea relates the experiences of a refugee she has corresponded with inside Baxter Detention Centre over the last two years, her eyes well up with tears.

Most relationships might begin with the exchange of a phone number, and Mrs O'Shea's relationship with the man was no different ? except in this case his number was used to identify him by immigration officials.

When she tries to explain his situation inside the centre, words like 'abandonment', 'severe depression' and 'powerless' pepper her sentences.

She would like to put his name to this story, but he has forbidden her, fearing that if it is made public he would become a target for execution were he forced to return to his native Afghanistan.

Through letters and two visits to Baxter, Mrs O'Shea has been told by the man that he is a 25year-old who fled Afghanistan's Taliban regime in early 2000 to seek asylum in Australia.

His request was rejected and he has since eked out an existence in Australian refugee detention centres, first in Woomera, and now Baxter.

Mrs O'Shea felt compelled to speak out about the man's situation following new development's in his quest for asylum.

A fortnight ago, Mrs O'Shea claims the Howard Government made him an offer.

The offer was a $2000 payment if he agreed to return to Afghanistan.

If he rejected it, he was told he would be deported within 45 days.

Mrs O'Shea can't help but see the irony of such an offer because she claims the Government's reason for refusing the man's asylum request was because he couldn't provide the paperwork to prove he is from Afghanistan.

Mrs O'Shea has asked anyone in the Clarence Valley wishing to help her on an information stall in Yamba on World Refugee Day (June 20) to contact her on 6646 2335.

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