In 2019, Refugee Week will be held from Sunday 16 June to Saturday 22 June.

Here I sit, staring at a blank page, wondering what to write? It’s Refugee Week.

I visualise delightfully coloured cultural clothing of the migrant populations that have graced, our ‘bounteous plains,’ in the past. Being realistic, the WWII immigrants had many challenges after they arrived on our shores. Their blessing: they were not ‘unlawful maritime arrivals.’[1] They could come to Australia as a family!

Not so, ‘for those who’ve come across the seas’ in leaky old boats, seeking asylum!

I work with asylum seekers and refugees. They grace my life.

So many stories to tell. I quiver in shame.

Tonight, I met with a man who came to Australia 10 years ago. His application for his wife (technically ‘Partner’) and children’s visa was lodged with the Department in 2013. Six years ago! What could I say or do but acknowledge his pain, whilst recognising the graced accident of my birth in Australia.

A couple of weeks ago, I had frequent visits from a gentle man (let’s call him Ali), visiting from Sydney. Sr Pat Sealey rsj, our now retired Migration Agent, had completed the documentation for his Partner visa application. He has four children. Last year, Ali visited his family in a country other than the country from which he sought asylum. He has a fifth offspring now. She is almost four months old.

It’s time to practise some Ignatian contemplation. Ali had his phone (not the latest and greatest model) sitting on the edge of my desk. There I sat gazing at the proud and loving father gooing and gaahing into the phone to attract the attention of the baby. The baby in downtown Quetta, the father and his mobile in Adelaide. I could not help but wonder how successful the ‘bonding’ attempt will be, in the long term?

Me, the aging white woman, with bare arms and no scarf, met Ali’s nine-year-old daughter and his wife. Again, I whimpered an apology to mother and child. It’s my Country preventing the family living together. Their husband and father is a recognised ‘refugee.’

Why had Ali taken time off to travel to Adelaide, over and above, calling at the office in the hope of ‘good news’ about the family’s visa. He came to bury his mate, a man with whom he travelled to Australia, who had died of natural causes. Faithful to the friendship, he organised the burial, within their religious tradition, travelled three and a half hours from Adelaide, to retrieve the man’s effects and return them to family, overseas. Ali now intends to financially support his friend’s family, as well as his own.

Denise MacKay rsj

Visit the' Refugee Week' website

[1] Migration Act 1958 (Cth) s 5AA.
Logo obtained from the Refugee Week website. Used with permission.