By Abdul Basit Issaka
An asylum seeker who was detained on Nauru for more than three years and is now living in Perth has asked that people discuss refugee issues with more compassion and sensitivity.
Shanmuganathan Nagaveeran, who is 36, said any time he hears people talking about stopping the boats, it makes him feel like he is not welcome in Australia.
Mr. Nagaveeran, a Tamil who fled Sri Lanka, said it is not his wish to be an asylum seeker in another country.
He said his plight was the result of the persecution of people from his ethnic group that forced him to join his friends to embark on a boat journey to Australia.
“I miss my Mum and relatives who are still in Sri Lanka and would not have taken this dangerous journey to Australia if I didn’t feel threatened,”he said.
“I am not here to take anybody’s job away from them, or to be on the welfare system. I just finished an aged care course and I can’t wait to start working and paying my tax,”
Mr Nagaveeran said he left Sri Lanka in August 2012 and arrived at Cocos Island a month later only to be taken to Nauru detention centre.
He said he considers himself lucky because he still contacts his friends in the detention centre.
He worries their mental and physical health is deteriorating every day.
Sally Thompson, an organising member of Refugee Rights’ Action Network WA, said accepting refugees should not be an issue considering the contribution of refugees who settled in Australia over the past decades.
“In the 70s, we had asylum seekers from Vietnam and today many of them have become doctors and others have established their own businesses,” she said.
She said she has met several asylum seekers and most of them are keen to go to school or get a job.
She said detaining refugees will not change the conditions that made them flee their countries, rather it adds to their suffering.