Today from Hiiraan Online:  _
Somali refugees claim immigration discrimination

Radio Australia
Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Somali refugees waiting in Indonesia, say they're being forced to take dangerous boat voyages because Australia is refusing to resettle Africans.

The refugees say they have been told by the United Nations refugee agency, in Jakarta, that there's no point applying to be resettled in Australia.

They wonder whether they're being rejected automatically from Australia's humanitarian program because of their skin colour.

Indonesia Correspondent, George Roberts.

Presenter: George Roberts, Indonesia correspondent

Speaker: Adris Mahboud, Somali refugee; Muhammad Abdurahman, Somali refugee

(Sound of a busy street)

GEORGE ROBERTS: For Adris Mahmoud, looking after an extended family of nine in Jakarta is getting tough.

ADRIS MAHMOUD: I have so problem. My family is already here and I have my wife. I don't know what I do.

GEORGE ROBERTS: The 24-year-old Somali refugee isn't allowed to work here, his children can't go to school, and he's considering one last option.

ADRIS MAHMOUD: By boat. I not have anything, I go by boat. Already, I go by boat Inshallah.

GEORGE ROBERTS: He was outside the UN Refugee Agency building, where we'd come to meet another Somali man called Hussein. Instead a man Muhammad Abdurahman was waiting for us.

(To Muhammad Abdurahman)

What has happened to Hussein?

MUHAMMAD ABDURAHMAN: Hussein has already got boat to Australia. I don't know if he's already arrived there…

GEORGE ROBERTS: Muhammad tells us that Hussein went by boat because he knew that Somalians aren't being accepted by Australia as refugees from overseas, but he's not the only one.

Muhammad thinks about 80 other Somali refugees and asylum seekers have left Indonesia by boat in the past two months.

Muhammad Abdurahman has been granted UN refugee status and has been trying to get resettled for three years. But like Hussein he's been told not to bother applying to Australia, because it doesn't want to take Africans.

MUHAMMAD ABDURAHMAN: They just told us Australia don't want to take Somalis, Africans, but especially Somalis, they don't want.

GEORGE ROBERTS: He says the UNHCR's case officers told the Somalian community here in Jakarta that Australia doesn't want them. Muhammad says that refugees from Somalia are human too and the only difference between them and other refugees is skin colour.

He's asked if they're being discriminated against on the basis of being black.

MUHAMMAD ABDURAHMAN: My friend is from other country, coming here and going to Australia so fast.

GEORGE ROBERTS: The UNHCR wouldn't confirm or deny that Australia isn't willing to accept African refugees. In an email, a spokeswoman for the Jakarta office said:

"I'm sorry but we are not able to answer your questions. I suggest you direct your questions to the government of Australia."

GEORGE ROBERTS: The Australian Immigration Department's spokesman, Sandi Logan, wasn't available for an interview, and his office indicated the Minister would handle the inquiry.

Back in Jakarta, Mohamed Abdurahman says he's heard Australian politicians urging refugees not to get on boats. But if he can't apply for protection through the so-called "regular process", there's little option left.

MUHAMMAD ABDURAHMAN: The only option I have to go is a boat and boat is dangerous for me. Already my friend go to boat. That is not good for us.

GEORGE ROBERTS: Of the 2,000 UN recognised refugees currently waiting in Indonesia, 234 are from Somalia.

There are also about 8,000 registered asylum seekers here hoping to get refugee status - a process that can take years.


Click here