Tuesday, 5 December 2017
I want to speak tonight about the terrible and heart-wrenching case of Arash Shirmohamadi. Arash is an Iranian refugee. He's currently held in Australia's offshore detention system on Nauru. Arash married his wife on Nauru. She became pregnant and was brought from Nauru to Australia for health reasons last year while she was still pregnant. Arash is in a terrible situation where he can't come to Australia. Because he's currently separated from his wife and his child, who was born healthily in Australia, Arash has been told by the Australian immigration department that he can apply for the US people-swap deal, the resettlement option that is being offered to some genuine refugees on Manus Island and Nauru, but that he cannot apply for that deal with his family.
The immigration department have told Arash that he simply has two options here: he can bring his family to Nauru and they can go through the US resettlement application process as a family, or his wife and daughter can stay in Australia but Arash has to give up custody of his child and be processed as a single man. Arash says, and it is certainly the case, that his wife cannot return to Nauru, because of ongoing concerns over her physical and psychological health; and, quite understandably, Arash is refusing to bring his daughter, who has never left Australia, to Nauru, because, as he says, 'My innocent baby, there is no future for her in this hell.'
Arash has been left with an impossible choice because of the actions of the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection and the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Mr Dutton. Right now, there are officials on the ground in Nauru who are processing applications for people who applied for the US people-swap deal. How must Arash be feeling? He has been asked to make a totally impossible choice, a choice that not one senator in this chamber would ever want to make: a choice between family and freedom.
Immigration minister Peter Dutton could solve this horrendous situation with the stroke of a pen. I beseech him to review this case and the decisions that the immigration department has made in relation to Arash and his family. Minister Dutton needs to intervene and find a way for this family to be reunited and have a chance at freedom and safety together as a family. He needs to either allow Arash's family to apply for the US deal—without Arash's wife and daughter leaving Australia and going back to Nauru—or allow Arash to come back to Australia to be in the arms of his family and to hold his baby daughter for the first time. To do anything other than one of those two options would constitute wanton cruelty and an abject abandonment of humanity and compassion.
I beseech the immigration minister to step in here to end this tragic situation where he is requiring, because of his actions, a man to decide between his daughter, who he has never seen and never held, and his freedom, which has been denied to him by Australia for nearly five years now because of being detained in our offshore detention system in Nauru. Nobody in this place would like to make that choice, but it is a stark reality that Australia's offshore processing, offshore detention and Operation Sovereign Borders policy framework is not only creating humanitarian calamities and costing lives, liberty, freedom and mental and physical health but also ripping families apart and destroying families. Peter Dutton needs to intervene here, and he needs to intervene now.