“I’ve been told if I don’t accept this offer, I would not have any future in Australia,” says Elika*.
“It took years for me to learn that the sudden death in Iran is easier than the slow death in Australia. I’m exhausted and feel like I’m living on death row now.”
Elika, 41, and her nine-year-old daughter, Avin, are refugees who arrived in Australia by boat and cannot settle here. Their only option for permanent resettlement is in the US as refugees, under the deal struck between the Australian and American governments.
It’s a chance at a new life, and an end to the rolling limbo of bridging visas in Australia, but comes with a catch – separation from her husband.
Earlier this month the US expanded its resettlement program to include refugees from Manus and Nauru who are in Australia for medical care.
Until now, the program had required all applicants to be in the offshore environments set up by Australia on Manus Island and Nauru. As of last month about 620 people had been accepted and transferred, and the change is expected to give hundreds more people a chance.
But because of the labyrinthine rules, exemptions and restrictions imposed on refugees by successive Australian governments, it is also causing family separations.
Elika and Avin arrived in Australia on 30 July 2013, allegedly unaware that just 11 days earlier, the then prime minister, Kevin Rudd, declared no boat arrival would settle in Australia. Elika’s husband had arrived in 2012 and was granted temporary protection, but has since been put on a bridging visa, Elika says.
By Saba Vasefi and Helen Davidson for THE GUARDIAN
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