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Concert for refugees trapped in Malaysia

24 February 20170 comments

A Melbourne businessman and former refugee has organised a concert in Malaysia to draw attention to the situation of refugees trapped in the country and possibly provide them with some hope for the future.

Supermarket owner Khan Hazara devised the ‘Smile for Refugees 2’ concert as a way to support refugees living in Malaysia.

An earlier concert was held in Indonesia in 2015 and both aimed to highlight the plight of refugees and help relieve some of their anxiety through the power of music.

The second concert, on March 15 in Kuala Lumpur, also aims to support refugee established and managed schools operating to educate children in the region.

The concert comes as asylum seekers stranded for years in Indonesia and Malaysia have demonstrated urging the UN refugee agency to speed up their resettlement in third countries.

Dozens of people from war-torn nations including Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan and Somalia called on the UNHCR to accelerate their resettlement, saying they could no longer bear to live in limbo and without jobs.

They waved banners reading “Refugees are human” and “Save us” during the rally at the refugee agency’s offices in Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur.

“Waiting for more than four years here without resettlement is absolutely terrible,” said one refugee from Afghanistan, where scores of ethnic Hazaras like himself have been captured, tortured and killed by Islamic militants.

Indonesia and Malaysia is home to nearly 20,000 men, women and children seeking resettlement in other countries, according to the UNHCR.

About 7500 have been recognised as refugees, giving them the prized UN card that inches them closer to realising their dreams of a better life.

But last year, just 610 were resettled in other countries such as the United States, Canada, Germany and New Zealand.

“People trapped in Malaysia are growing more desperate, have very little to occupy them or make them feel cared about and we are hoping this concert will provide a little joy,” Mr Hazara said.

“I wish with all my heart to do something for the asylum seekers in Malaysia . . . this concert will be given so smiles can be reinstated and traumas can be forgotten, and music has the power to encourage, comfort, and inspire the listener,” said singer and musician Zia Sahil, who will perform at the concert

After enduring extremely difficult circumstances as a refugee in Indonesia and when travelling to Australia by boat, Mr Hazara is determined to help in whatever way he can.

“I had a hard time in Indonesia and Malaysia as a refugee, that’s why I had a dream to do something for them if I was able to,” he said.

The 24-year-old is the owner and manager of a burgeoning halal supermarket in Hampton Park, in Melbourne’s south east.

Having been persecuted for belonging to the minority Hazara ethnic group, Mr Hazara was forced flee his home of Afghanistan, only to then endure the same treatment in Pakistan.

At 17, Khan decided to seek asylum in Australia, leaving behind his mother, wife, and three children.

Khan made his way to Malaysia, and then to Indonesia where he was arrested and put in a holding facility.

During relocation from his cell, Khan was able to escape and after two months found a boat to take him to Australia.

The boat he was on was intercepted and taken to Christmas Island, where he spent three months in detention before being granted permanent residency.

With no money, Mr Khan studied a diploma in business management while working as a courier at night, and managed to buy a small wholesale bakery within a year.

Khan has now extended that bakery into a full supermarket in Hampton Park and has recently opened a second location.

Laurie Nowell
AMES Australia Senior Journalist