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SHARE: A letter to children spending the holidays in detention.

This is Bashir.

Bashir is a Hazara refugee who arrived in Australia by boat and was then kept in detention for a number of months before being released. He’s written a letter addressed to other children in detention, a way to give hope and inspire them especially around this time of year.

Dear children in detention,

I was only 15 years old, not much older than you are now, when I had to make the hardest decision of my life.

I fled Afghanistan, leaving behind war and destruction, but also my family and loved ones, as I began a long and exhausting journey in search of safety.

After arriving to Pakistan by car, I was flown to Thailand and then made my way to Indonesia. From there, I was finally on board a boat bound for Australia.

Despite the extremely difficult conditions, with more than 70 people crammed on a boat left without food and water for days, somehow, I was calm. I felt I was saved.

I was taken to Christmas Island and then transferred to a detention centre in Melbourne three months later. The conditions I faced there, however, were a different kind of difficult.

I spent each and every waking hour worrying about what would happen to me and to my younger brothers, whom I had left behind in the care of our uncle. If I didn’t succeed, my promises of safety to them would have been broken. We would have sacrificed it all for nothing.

My entire future depended on a simple yes or no.It also depended on my ability to tell my story down to every last detail, whenever I was asked.

What’s it like in your country? How did you get here? Why did you come here?

It would have been easy to get frustrated when they asked me the same questions over and over again. But I needed to survive, I told myself, that’s why I came here. And I knew they were just trying to help me the best way they can.

I also needed more human contact with people in the centre, so I decided to teach myself English.

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It would be a welcome distraction from the anxiety of waiting endlessly, but it would also give me hope. It meant I had a goal to work towards if and when I made it out.

I was determined to tell my story so the Australian community, which I hoped I would be a part of one day, could really know what it’s like to be a refugee.

So I borrowed my friend’s dictionary and photocopied it page for page. With each passing day in detention, I learned lists of words and their meanings, and I practiced using them everyday.

Going to school during my time in detention also gave me a sense of purpose. I knew the importance of working hard in order to one day make something of myself.

Just as importantly, I made a lot of friends along the way, including three young boys, just like me, who had also left their families behind in search for a safer life.

After we were released in the community together, they became part of the new family I have made here in Australia.

I’ll be spending the holidays with friends and mentors from school and the community. We’ll see the city sights, try new food, and go on adventures.

Nothing has made more of a difference than the people I have met and bonded with along the way – if nothing else, remember that. For me, this country is defined by the kindness of its people.

People here have opened their hearts and doors to us, all year round. They’ve allowed me to share my culture, and experience theirs. When they call me a ‘good boy’ or a ‘hard worker’ I feel proud, and this motivates me to continue to make my community proud.

This is what it feels like to belong to Australia.

If you had asked me two years ago where I would be now, I had no idea.

Now I have a place to call home. A safe, sweet home. You will too.

Love,

Bashir

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