Our whole family came to Australia by boat. Sometimes in Iran, the government ‘disappears’ people and nobody knows where they have gone. Our father had already been harassed a few times, and we were very worried about what might happen next, so we made the decision to leave everything behind.
We were held on Christmas Island for just over 2 months, before being moved to a detention centre in South Australia, luckily, because just after we arrived, they started taking people to Nauru rather than to the mainland.
After we were released, we were on a Community Detention visa for two years, which didn’t allow us to work or study, and the only thing we were allowed to do was 6 hours of English class per week. So we spent most of our time just doing volunteer work in lots of different places. Even though we were happy we were safe, when you don’t know what’s going to happen in your future, that uncertainty that you or one of your family members might be sent back to your country still ruins your life – you can’t concentrate. Finally, we were found to be genuine refugees, and were all put onto the new SHEV visa, which gives us work rights. But this is a temporary visa for five years, so we are still thinking about what’s going to happen after that.
The perception of asylum seekers in Australia is so negative – when you say, ‘I’m an asylum seeker’, people’s faces change, which is hard for us. We decided to open Ayla’s vegetarian cafe to show people that even though we’re asylum seekers, we can work hard, that we can contribute to the community, that we are not the stereotype you know. We are not criminals, we are not here to take everything away. We came here for another reason. Nobody likes to leave their home town, their country. For example, our father is 45 years old. He grew up in Iran, he had his family there, his life was set up. Now, if he has to go to the doctor, he needs his son to go with him and translate. Nobody wants this kind of situation at his age. And nobody wants to put their children’s lives in danger.
It has not been an easy thing. In the 8 months since we opened this place, we’ve had just 4 days off and every day we’ve worked more than 12 hours. But everyone has helped – our cousins and friends lent us money to get started and our mum and dad and aunties help out in the café. Many people who are not family have helped us too. The landlord trusted us even though we didn’t have savings, and the person who used to own this place agreed to act as a guarantor for our rent, even though she had never met us before! And recently a guy from Strata offered to fix this place up for us. He said, ‘I see you guys in here before me and leaving after me every day, so I’m going to work for you for free.’
Sometimes there is something bigger than hope behind these things, some people call it God, some people call it religion or karma, whatever you call it, there has been something behind everything that has happened to us here.
We feel a great sense of welcoming.
Arian and Mahyar
If you live in Adelaide, pop into Ayla’s cafe on Bent St for a great coffee!
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