Council votes to support Afghan refugees



ALBANY, WA — On October 21, Albany City Council passed a motion to support the city's Afghan Hazara refugees' claims for permanent residency. More than 100 people attended the council meeting. Bradley Sims, Rafiq Alizadah, Paul Romeo, David Sims and Marianne Jameson spoke on behalf of the Afghans during question time.

Councillor Roland Paver moved the motion, delivering a well-researched and informative speech on the issue. Councillor Bob Emery amended the motion to include further support for the Afghans, including that the council write a letter to the federal minister for immigration highlighting the economic and social benefits to the Albany community that the Afghans provide.

A lively debate ensued. Those who spoke against the motion expressed a desire not to offend the federal government, and questioned the council's relevance in relation to federal issues. These arguments were soundly defeated by well-reasoned speeches from Paver, Emery, deputy mayor Milton Evans and councillors Paul Leonetti and Tony Demarteau. One councillor walked out of the meeting. The debate lasted for 40 minutes and was a highly emotional experience for all members of the audience who had become so personally connected with the Afghans who have lived in Albany for the last three to four years.

The final motion was put to the meeting and passed by nine votes to one. Councillors who initially opposed the motion ended up voting for it, having been swayed by the arguments.

Everyone left the meeting with hugs and handshakes, emotionally spent from the experience. It is obvious now that a large group of Albany residents, along with their council, are deeply committed to stopping the deportation of Afghan residents.

Hafizullah Afzali faces an interview with the Refugee Review Tribunal on October 27, to appeal against the federal government's decision to deport him. He is the first of the Afghans to face deportation. Interestingly, he has the highest profile of the refugees because he has a better command of English than others and has most often appeared in the newspapers and on TV.

From Green Left Weekly, October 29, 2003.
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