‘New Zealand, get me off this island,’ pleads 9-year Iran refugee on Nauru

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Iranian refugee Hamid and two of his children
Iranian refugee Hamid and two of his children . . . "The situation here on this island is really hard - not just for me, but for everyone." Image: RNZ Pacific

By Lydia Lewis, RNZ Pacific journalist

A second group of refugees detained in offshore Australian detention camps have arrived in New Zealand.

Four people touched down on a flight yesterday.

“I’m happy for them that they can get their freedom,” a friend of the recent arrivals who is still detained on Nauru, Hamid, said.

Their arrival is part of an offer made by the New Zealand government to resettle up to 150 people who are or have been detained on Nauru each year for three years starting from 2022.

The Australian federal government accepted the offer in March last year and the first six refugees arrived in November.

The total arrivals of 10 is out of 100 refugees who have had their cases for resettlement submitted to Immigration New Zealand (INZ).

‘Kia ora’ Aotearoa, I’m Hamid’
Hamid is from Iran and has been detained for almost a decade.

“The situation here on this island is really hard — not just for me, but for everyone.

“I cannot stand any more time on this island.

“Please help! please help! please help! I need my freedom, I need my life, I need my family!” Hamid said.

He arrived on Christmas Island in 26 July 2013 with his eldest daughter and son. He left his wife and youngest daughter, who was only nine at the time, in Iran.

“In Iran, a lot of people already die, she [my wife] is tired. My daughter, I always worried about her. I give them hope,” he said.

Hamid dreams of being reunited with his family in New Zealand. He dreams of living in Queenstown and having a big Iranian barbecue.

Scattered family
He said his case had just been sent to INZ by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

While he waits for New Zealand to decide on his future, his wife and youngest child remain in Iran, his son is in Australia and his eldest daughter is in the US.

A family that has gone through so much is now scattered around the world.

“My family, I love them and the time and the day they join me, I cannot wait to be with them, to hug them and give them my love.

“I love them, they are my only love, my one and only, my wife, she is my one and only,” he said.

It takes around six to nine months to assess and process each case, a wait he said is going to be gruelling.

“All cases under the Australia arrangement are subject to having refugee status recognised by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and being submitted to New Zealand for resettlement. The UNHCR refer these cases to INZ who conduct an interview process with the individuals,” an INZ spokesperson said.

While Hamid was not on yesterday’s flight, INZ said it, “will be in contact with [him] about his situation once his arrangements are finalised”.

Until then, Hamid said he was scrubbing up on his te reo Māori while dreaming of his new life in New Zealand.

He cannot wait to greet people with “Kia ora”.

“I know New Zealand, I love the people,” Hamid said.

A group of refugees at the airport in Nauru.
A group of refugees at the airport in Nauru. Image: Refugee Action Coalition/RNZ Pacific

‘Bereft of hope’
While Hamid did have hope, Amnesty International said others did not.

It is calling on the New Zealand government to speed up the resettlement process.

“The Australian government’s offshore detention regime in Nauru and PNG has destroyed so many lives,” Australia refugee rights campaigner Zaki Haidari said.

“Many people are now so broken they can’t make a decision for themselves and are bereft of hope.”

An Immigration New Zealand spokesperson said it currently had 90 applications to process.

Interviews are underway for the remaining cases.

But the process was simply too slow, Haidari said.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ. 

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