An asylum seeker’s story: journey to Australia
Dr Waleed Alkhazrajy fled his native Iraq 15 years ago. Saddam Hussein’s regime had ordered him to cut off the ears of army deserters or brand their foreheads with a cross. He chose not to, which meant he had to leave or face torture or death.
So he left. In Jordan he made contact with people smugglers – his family raised the $15,000 the smugglers demanded to take him to Australia via Malaysia and Indonesia.
Now an anaesthetist in Adelaide, he told The Punch what life was like on that boat.
“On the boat it’s really scary, really terrifying. You know that the boat, with you in it, has a chance to capsize or send you to your death at any moment.
That’s how it feels. You think “I’m going to die in the next minute”.
That’s it. I couldn’t swim. It’s a wide sea. It’s a boat made of wood.
It’s not an equipped boat. You can rest assured there’s no navigation equipment or telecommunication equipment or even a well-trained crew that can pull you to safety if something happens.
The whole time you feel like you’re being chased. The fear of being a man or a person who hasn’t done anything wrong but at the same time everybody wants to have a go at you and sentence you to death or torture you.
Then you’re with people you don’t want to be with – the people smugglers, people who are taking your money with a promise. It’s a dark world.
I had no alternative. No country would give me rights. Rights to live, rights to work.
I was 27, 28. I was being chased although I wasn’t doing anything wrong and if I was captured I’d be tortured.
In my country you can be tortured every day. Every day of your life. So I needed to leave.
So you get on this boat and say: “if I make it, I make it”.
I was almost like a drugged person when I saw that boat. I don’t remember making an assessment of it.
It was dark and I was numb, I was in denial. All these feelings you can have. I was scared.
I couldn’t make an assessment of the seaworthiness.
We were lucky. It wasn’t that rough. It was good sailing conditions.
At Christmas Island… words would not be enough to describe what they went through in the last few moments of their journey.
My thoughts are with them, their families, their loved ones. With the people who are injured, with those who are still alive.
It’s not a light decision that they make … The amount of desperation they have which pushes them into this decision is enormous. A small child doesn’t want to go through an operation but there’s no other choice.
I just want the Australian people to understand the amount of pressure and desperation for these people to make this journey.”
Dr Alkhazrajy tells more of his story in the latest Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists Bulletin.
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