Government rhetoric hides deadly reality of refugee policy

Burundi refugees in a camp in Rawanda.

Sam (named changed) is a young refugee from Burundi who came to Australia in 2011 on a Protection Visa. However his visa has expired and the government wants to send him back.

Burundi is currently engulfed by a civil war between the Hutu and Tutsi tribes. Unrest is growing because the opposition has accused President Pierre Nkurunzizi, a former Hutu leader, of violating the constitution that places a two-term limit on presidents. Nkurunzizi was re-elected for a third term in 2015.

Sam has photos of people from his village who were shot by government forces, their bodies left out in the street to intimidate others. This would almost certainly happen to him if he was sent back.

Sam was told that he had go to the Immigration Department with a plane ticket — to anywhere.

A friend of Sam's in my local church told us about his situation, so a couple of us agreed to go and support him.

We spoke with an immigration official who told us that because Sam didn't have a plane ticket, he was in breach of his visa.

But where can he go? If Sam goes to another country, he may not be able to stay there and instead be deported — not to Australia, but to Burundi.

The official said “That's his choice”. They do this so that they can tell the public they are not deporting people to a country where they will be shot, even if that is the outcome of their actions.

After our conversation with the official, Sam's visa was extended for another 2 weeks.

We need to expose the lies behind the government's propaganda. The public must know what the government is doing in our name.

We need to take a stand, speak out, sign a petition, write a letter, ring our local MP, not just for Sam, but for the hundreds like him.

We need to pressure immigration minister Peter Dutton to shift his stance, in the name of humanity and for justice. If we make enough noise we can force him to change.

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