Malaysia policy a deterrent: refugee

By Alana Buckley-Carr, The West Australian

Habibullah may not agree with the Malaysia solution but his are exactly the words Immigration Minister Chris Bowen wants to hear: “No, I don’t think I would get on a boat if I was sent to Malaysia.”

With the High Court set to hand down its decision today into the lawfulness of the Gillard Government’s Malaysia solution, Afghan refugee Habibullah said he would never have made the treacherous boat journey if he knew he would be sent straight back to Malaysia.

More than 330 asylum seekers have been in limbo on Christmas Island since the High Court issued an injunction this month, stopping the Government from sending boat people to Malaysia.

Yesterday, Mr Bowen’s office refused to speculate on what plans were in place if the deal with Malaysia was found to be unlawful.

Habibullah, a 28-year-old father of two, was granted asylum last month after spending 15 months in detention on Christmas Island and at the Curtin detention centre.

He is now trying to have his wife and two daughters brought to Australia from Iran, where they have lived illegally for years.

In exchange for $US6000, Habibullah was given a false passport and began a series of flights taking him to Bali, before being taken to the rickety wooden boat off a small beach in the dead of night.

“When we got on the boat it was dark, we couldn’t see the boat very clearly,” Habibullah said. “The day after the sun rise, we saw the boat was very small, very old.”

The former carpet weaver spent two months on Christmas Island before being among the first detainees to be transferred to the refurbished Curtin detention centre last year.

But conditions were far from ideal. He was never taken outside the centre in 13 months at Curtin and grew increasingly frustrated by changes in Government policy.

“One week there was one policy, the next week another policy,” Habibullah said.

“They don’t process cases in the order they arrived. Everyone gets angry when you are limited to a specific place where you can’t go outside, especially when you don’t know what will happen to you in the future.”

It was only on July 20 that he was finally granted a protection visa, after having his first claim for asylum rejected.

He now lives in a modest house in Girrawheen and plans to continue his English studies, before studying law at university.