From beheadings to Eton

February 26th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Daily Mail reports:

When three-year-old Rohid Zamani and his family fled Afghanistan to escape the terrors of the Taliban regime, they could only hope to reach a better place.

But never in their wildest dreams could they have imagined such a spectacular outcome for their little boy.

While the family have built a new life in Britain, Rohid, now 16, has defied overwhelming odds to win a full scholarship to Eton.

His extraordinary story began in the city of Jalalabad, where the Zamanis lived in fear of the extremist Islamic rulers and civil unrest raging around them.

Among the horrors they witnessed was a man who was decapitated because he put gel in his hair to style it.

‘He was dragged out in the street and they chopped his head off,’ said Rohid.

Afghanistan is far from perfect today, but those who claim it is no better than under Taliban rule have never lived there!

Rohid’s father, who worked as a civil engineer, decided to risk everything by fleeing the country with his wife and two children.

Their journey took them across 3,500 miles, including crossing rivers in Russia in a leaking rubber dinghy.

Rohid said: ‘My mum was scared we were going to sink. She put her hand on the hole.

‘I was really scared. After that we had to wait for a van and the van broke down so we had to go through a forest.

‘There were wolves and dogs, everybody was just so scared.’

The family also became separated at one point.

They spoke no English when they arrived in Hull but they soon adapted and were allowed to settle in the UK. And Rohid showed his dedication to learning early on.

An incredible journey.

As well as being bright and hard-working, he excelled at rugby league and athletics. When the school suggested Rohid apply for an Eton scholarship he jumped at the chance and was among hundreds who took part in a tough four-day interview process.

‘Luckily I was picked so I must have done OK,’ he said. 

He starts at sixth form in September, studying A-levels in maths, biology, chemistry and physics.
Rohid’s father now works as a van driver – but the family won’t have to pay a penny of the £30,000 annual fees and have been given a £1,500 bursary to help cover school uniform and other expenses.

The teenager now knows there is no limit to what he can achieve. He hopes to become a surgeon. Commenting on the Eton life that awaits him, he said: ‘It’s a huge step, a bit like going to university two years early.

When people talk about equality of opportunity – this is what it means. A very heart-warming story.

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Thoughts on the asylum seekers deal with Australia

February 12th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

A few thoughts:

  • Isn’t it amusing that when Helen Clark agreed to take some boat people who were seeking asylum in Australia she was lauded by the entire left for her humanitarian gesture yet when John Key agrees to do much the same, but annually, he is condemned by the exact same people. And yes, the Tampa refugees were treated as part of the quota also.
  • How can one criticize this deal for encouraging queue-jumping yet also advocate that Australia should resume onshore processing which has been shown to massively encourage boat voyages and queue jumping.
  • Personally I think there is a legitimate criticism that this deal may encourage queue-jumping, but probably not significantly enough to actually lead to a group of people deciding to make a boat voyage they otherwise would not have.
  • There is a surprising lack of sophistication in understanding our relationship with Australia is not purely a transactional one. The decision by the NZ Government helps Julia Gillard (and any successor)  in what is arguably her most difficult domestic issue. That will not be forgotten.
  • The notion that Australia bullied NZ into this is ridiculous. In fact as reported it was a NZ initiative
  • What is surprising is the lack of focus on a centre-right NZ PM helping out a centre-left Australian PM. It’s a nice example of not letting domestic politics interfere with having a strong relationship.
  • I’m surprised also no one has cottoned on to Gillard making an unprecedented early announcement of the election date, almost certainly being because Key the same thing in 2011.
  • Personally I think taking in refugees is one of the better things a country can do, so long as they are able to integrate well into their new country and that the level is sustainable. Note that Australia takes in 20,000 to our 750. I’d like that to increase at some stage in the future when our economy is stronger. But I think it is best increased through the UNHCR process, not through increasing the number in the bilateral agreement with Australia
  • You have to love Labour’s strong clear policy on this issue. They are outraged of course, but when asked what they would do, the answer is “Shearer said if elected, Labour would discuss the policy with Australia.” – you can’t make this stuff up.
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A humane decision

October 26th, 2012 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Up to 26 Afghan interpreters will be given asylum in New Zealand when Kiwi troops withdraw from Bamiyan next April.

A spokesman for Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman said Cabinet agreed on Monday to offer the interpreters a resettlement package in New Zealand.

The details will be released next week when Dr Coleman returns from a visit to the Middle East.

The interpreters, working with the Provincial Reconstruction Team, are being notified of their packages.

Including the interpreters’ families, 75 Afghans would come to New Zealand.

Prime Minister John Key said earlier this month he was sympathetic to Afghan interpreters working with Kiwi troops who say their lives will be in danger.

The interpreters have said their work over a long period has made their identities known to insurgents, putting them at risk after New Zealand leaves the region.

I think this is the right decision. This incidentally doesn’t mean an increase in refugees – rather that they get allocated 75 out of our annual (I think) 750 places.

UPDATE: They do not qualify as refugees, so in fact are additional to the normal quota.

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The dangers of boat asylum seekers

June 22nd, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Scores are feared dead as rescuers race to save 200 asylum seekers who were on a boat that capsized en route to Australia.

Indonesian authorities were leading the rescue effort for the boat that went down in their jurisdiction about 200km north of Christmas Island.

The stricken vessel was spotted by an Australian Customs and Border Protection surveillance plane about 5pm (NZ time).

“It is believed up to 200 people could be on board, although this detail has not yet been confirmed,” Customs said in a statement.

West Australian Police Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan said about 40 people were spotted on the upturned hull, others were in the water and up to 75 others may be dead.

“We have grave fears for the remainder,” he told reporters.

What an awful way to die, drowning in the Indian Ocean scores of miles from land.

In December 2010, more than 50 asylum seekers, including women and children, died when a boat known as SIEV 221 crashed into rocks off Christmas Island.

The disaster was the largest loss of life in Australian waters in peacetime in 115 years.

And as many as 200 people drowned last December when an overloaded boat sank off the coast of East Java on its way to Australia.

Only 49 people survived the tragedy, which occurred in rough monsoonal seas on December 17.

So far this year, 57 boats carrying a total of 4006 passengers and 82 crew have arrived in Australia.

For the month of June, there have been 18 boats carrying a total of 1108 people.

The latest arrived arrived on Thursday and had 117 people on board.

I wonder how many were genuine refugees who gained asylum.

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Boat People Laws

May 1st, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Claire Trevett at NZ Herald reports:

Prime Minister John Key says there is an increasing risk that boat people will make it to New Zealand’s shores and new changes to the immigration law are needed to deter people smugglers and cope with a possible mass arrival of asylum seekers.

And the changes:

  • will apply to illegal immigrants who arrive in a group of 11 or more.
  • will be detained under a group warrant, rather than individual warrants.
  • if accepted as refugees, will not get residency for at least three years after their refugee status is reviewed.
  • will only be able to sponsor immediate family members to NZ, not extended family such as adult siblings or parents.

A key thing to understand is the difference between genuine refugees and what might be called economic refugees.

A genuine refugee is a person who flees a country because they face persecution “on account of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or because they are a member of a persecuted ‘social group’.” A Jew fleeing Nazi Europe is one example. A political dissident from China could be another.

“Economic refugees” or “Economic migrants” are those who seek to move to another country because it has a higher standard of living. Their motivation is quite understandable – your family are likely to have a much better life in Australia or New Zealand than in say Indonesia.

However NZ and Australia do not have open borders. They have criteria for immigration based on education, skills, wealth, age etc. Allowing anyone who can make the journey over to stay, undermines that. Hence when “boat people” turn up, they are often detained until it is clarified that they are legitimate refugees, or “economic refugees”. It is not particularly nice to do such a thing, but the reality is that if not detained, then it may be very difficult to locate them again if they are meant to be deported.

We have been fortunate not to have had a significant issue to date, but I think it is inevitable we will have a fairly large boat or two arrive at some stage.

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