Yesterday, two asylum seekers – a young boy and a women in her 30s – drowned when the boat they were travelling in capsized off the coast of Christmas Island.
This tragic story is sadly, not uncommon. Hundreds of people have tried on the dangerous journey to Australia by boat; risking their lives in the hope of finding a better one.
Mariam Hakim came to Australia as an asylum seeker when her parents fled Afghanistan. She shares her story with Mamamia readers today.
By MARIAM HAKIM
My earliest childhood memories are of Villawood Detention Centre. Twenty-five years ago my parents made the difficult decision to flee Afghanistan and secure a better future for me. I was two years old.
I didn’t know what they were running from. I didn’t know how their decision had secured for me a life, where I would be safe and free to pursue anything I could think of. My parents wanted a better life for me than they had had themselves. What parent doesn’t what that for their children?
My parents dared to dream of a better future and decided to take control of their destiny and mine. When they speak of their memories of Afghanistan, they speak of the deafening sound of exploding rockets and bombs, the hovering helicopters and the soldiers looking for civilian men were escaping conscription.
They escaped on horseback with a smuggler and three children aged six months, six and eight. They packed what little food and water they could and crossed the border into Pakistan. They had little chance of survival but by some miracle they made it.
I was the youngest of the four children and I grew up hearing the story of the struggle my parent’s went through to get us to Australia.
My father was an architect and my mother a mid-wife. These skills were enough to get them accepted into Australia as skilled migrants.
I sometimes wonder where I would be today had my parents not made the brave decision they did. Would I be living in a refugee camp in Afghanistan with those who didn’t have the opportunity to escape?