Refugees feel like "members of the world" in Australia
The world is a proverbial oyster for Arsalan, 23, and his sister Asina, 18. But it wasn’t always so. Growing up in Iran as members of a minority religion, Baha’i, meant they, and their parents, were used to being told ‘no, you can’t’.
“There is nothing in law saying that you can’t be Baha’i, but in Iran, if you are Baha’i, people can do anything against you,” Arsalan said.
Asina continued: “Baha’is can’t own businesses. Our father was a photographer for 30 years. Then the government told him to shut down his shop.”
“I was banned from university,” Arsalan said. And surveillance of us was so high, especially of my sister.”
Two years ago, the family left Iran and lived in Turkey for two years while waiting for their claim for asylum to be assessed. Then they received the good news that Australia would grant the four of them permanent visas. They arrived in Sydney in March, and have become two of Settlement Services International’s newest clients.
SSI provides the family with essential support and information through its Humanitarian Settlement Services program, for refugees and humanitarian entrants, to help them settle successfully in Australia .
“The interesting thing here in Australia is that I suddenly feel like a member of the world,” Arsalan said. “I feel like Iran was a very isolated, closed place, but here, if I try, I can reach anything.
Arsalan said he wanted to study a computer science degree and perhaps create websites that can help others who suffered as his family did.
Asina agreed: “I can reach what I want,” she said. There’s no one to say, ‘that’s enough for you’. And we can have friends from other countries.”
And how are their parents coping with the change? “They are happy,” Arsalan said. “For adults changing place is harder, but they can relax here. No one is angry at them.”