Iranian asylum seeker petitions for permanent residency in Australia
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Iranian asylum seeker petitions for permanent residency in Australia

A 23-YEAR-OLD Iranian asylum seeker is pleading with the Australian government to grant her permanent residency after years of uncertainty.

Mojgan Shamsalipoor fled Iran in 2012 after being raped by her stepfather, who allegedly has links to the Iranian government. At age 16, she was told she would never see her mother again unless she married a man in his 60s.

Over the past couple of years, Mojgan’s case has seen a wave of public support for her campaign to stay permanently in Australia based on her husband’s permanent residency. She spent two years in immigration detention in both Brisbane and Darwin, during which she managed to finish high school and met her now-husband Milad.

The couple’s story was recently documented by ABC programme Australian Story.

By Monday morning, a petition by Mojgan to the Immigration Minister Peter Dutton on Change.org had gathered almost 100,000 signatures.

“Please Minister Dutton, I’m asking you to have compassion,” she said in a video on Change.org, “and not ask me to leave my husband and my beautiful friends in Brisbane.”

Mojgan's plea

"Iran is not safe for me. Please Peter Dutton allow me to keep building my life in my community in Brisbane"https://www.change.org/mojgan

Posted by Change.org on Wednesday, March 15, 2017

On Friday, it was announced Dutton had granted Mojgan another bridging visa just days before her previous visa was set to expire on March 21, meaning she can stay in Australia for a further three months.

But her future remains uncertain beyond that point, and there remains the possibility of being returned to immigration detention or deported back to Iran. As Fairfax columnist Ruby Hamad observed, Mojgan’s status as a woman does not classify her as a member of a “persecuted” group under the definition provided by the 1951 Refugee Convention, despite being “genuinely and legitimately fearful of being persecuted” if returned to Iran.

“I’d rather die than return to Iran. It’s better to die, even aged 23, than to return to torture over there. That’s why I’m pleading with Minister Peter Dutton to help me achieve my dream of permanent residency,” she wrote in an opinion piece for News.com.au.

UPDATE:Thank you to everyone who has signed the petition at https://www.change.org/mojgan and made phone calls to the…

Posted by Free Mojgan on Thursday, March 16, 2017

Australia has a complex system of bridging visas for people seeking asylum, which were reintroduced by the government in October 2013. According to Human Rights Watch, Australia is the only country to implement temporary visa status to people who have been through full asylum determination processes and are “recognised as genuinely in need of protection.”

Between 1999 and 2008, more than 11,000 refugees were placed on Temporary Protection Visas (TPVs) and eventually 95 percent were given permanent protection.

There are around 30,000 people seeking asylum in Australia on TPVs, and whilst they are generally allowed to work, they are barred from most forms of financial support, are unable to access English classes and translation services, and have limited access to housing.

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Source: Free Mojgan Facebook page

“The discretionary and arbitrary policy of granting Bridging Visas has had a profoundly negative impact on people seeking asylum in Australia,” Refugee Council of Australia policy officer Asher Hirsch told Asian Correspondent.

“Short-term visas leave people in limbo, creating uncertainty about their future. We have seen this uncertainty result in the declining mental health of people seeking asylum in Australia. Australia must ensure a fair and just asylum process for all people seeking asylum.”

Mojgan’s lawyer, Kevin Kadirgamar, told the Guardian “she has proven herself as well over the last six months. She hasn’t stayed idle, she has completed a certificate three in health services since coming out of detention, she has been employed, hasn’t gone on welfare – and that’s not to mention the compelling reasons she has to be with family.”

SEE ALSO: Australia must do more to protect LGBTI refugees and asylum seekers

According to her former school teacher, Jessica Walker, Mojgan “has another three months’ reprieve and is looking forward to Persian New Year” next week.

Walker says the Immigration Department has indicated the possibility of granting a “more substantive visa — for instance a tourist visa — which would allow her to apply for a permanent partner visa without leaving Australia.”

“When my bridging visa expires and I may face two bleak options: Nightmare in indefinite detention, or hell in Iran,” Mojgan continued in her article.

“Please let me have peace and experience true freedom for the first time in my life.”