Belonging in Australia

By Amal Basry
May 23 2005, 01:13

As told to Mary Dagmar Davies ...

My name is Amal and that means hope. After SIEVX sank I survived for 22 hours in the water surrounded by the dead and dying keeping afloat by holding on to the lifeless body of another woman. When my son and I were finally allowed to come to Australia to join my husband I lost a breast to cancer and then found it had entered my bones but still I had hope. I clung to that hope with all the tenacity and strength a woman must have to survive. But in February, just after my cancer treatment, hope left me. It just went away and I was lost.

"They don't want us. They will never want us. We don't belong here. We don't belong anywhere anymore", I cried. The tears would not stop coming and when I looked at my husband and my son they seemed different and far away. I felt as alone as I felt in the sea when I was convinced my son had drowned. I was drifting into delirium.

I was rushed to hospital where no one could work out the reason for my soaring temperature. It seemed I slept for five days; when I did wake the nurses and doctors were so kind but they could not bring me hope and even if they healed me they could not give me freedom. I felt as though I had lost everything and as the story of poor Cornelia Rau started to be talked about, the people at the hospital understood how terrible things could be.

The nurse who came to my bedside with a telephone was shaking. "It's the immigration department", she said. I might have screamed with fear; I know I cried. How did they know I was in hospital? Do they know everything? Do they know every time we draw breath?

"They will send me away", I cried. I was still crying when I took the phone and I didn't understand what the woman from immigration was saying. "You are deporting me?" I asked, but it was more a statement. I knew people had been deported from hospital.

"No" she said "It is good news". She knew I was in hospital because she had spoken to my husband and my son. "You have been granted permanent residency, Amal. All of you. You, your son and your husband".

"You mean I am free?" I had to be sure.

"Yes. You have permanent residency, Amal". I did scream then and doctors and nurses ran to my bedside.

"Amal, Amal what's wrong, are you in pain?" they asked.

"No. Everything is different. Everything is beautiful now", I answered.

I could feel life returning to me I could feel my temperature dropping and I could feel I was getting well. Crying with happiness I spoke into the phone again.

"I think you have saved my life", I told that kind woman from immigration.

Yes, everything is beautiful now for me but I know it is not beautiful for others who have also been through terrible times and continue to suffer. Again I can hope and I hope that others will experience kindness and understanding from DIMIA. Again I can believe in Australia because nothing is more important than belonging and nothing is more important than freedom.

Copyright Amal Basry May 22, 2005

[originally published on - minor edits by]


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