AMEP graduate story pays tribute to refugee week
This week is refugee week. We spoke with Nabeel, who came to Australia as a refugee, about his experiences and the journey that led him to Australia.
Nabeel is from Iraq originally, but had to flee with his family in 2012, due to persecution and fears for the safety of his family.
At the time, sectarian conflict and lawlessness had become rife across the country.
While many refugees are fleeing government persecution, distressingly, Nabeel’s persecution came from within his own community.
“One day I went to my house found that it had been seized by another family,” he said.
Nabeel says that when he approached the police, they warned him that the family who had taken his house were powerful people and cautioned him about challenging their ownership.
“After I went to the local police for help, some people came to my house and fired their guns at the house as a warning. We also endured death threats and kidnappings.”
Nabeel said the breakdown of the rule of law in Iraq, meant that his community – the Mandaeans – became easy targets.
Mandaeans believe John the Baptist was the last great prophet. Waterways and rivers are central to their religion, and they go for weekly river baptisms in the way Christians go to church.
They are also pacificists and traditionally many, including Nabeel, work as jewellers.
“It was bad for my family – people think because I am a jeweller, that I am rich. They try to rob me,” he said.
The constant fear of violence and persecution were the final straw for Nabeel. He fled Iraq with his family to Malaysia, then Jakarta, before eventually coming to Australia by boat, where they were admitted as a refugees.
Nabeel said he will always be grateful to Australia for the opportunity to start a new, safer life, without fear of persecution.
“We are very happy because [Australia] is a peaceful, safe country – there is freedom of religion and speech.”
When it came to settling in Australia, Nabeel said that although he learnt basic English while attending university in Baghdad, he never had the opportunity to practise his English before coming to Australia - as everyone at his university spoke Arabic.
After studying with Navitas English, Nabeel is now considered to have level 3 competency in English.
“Improving my English has really helped me and my family settle in Australia,” he said.
After finishing his training with AMEP, Nabeel was able to land a job at his local Woolworths.
“I am very grateful to Australia and Navitas English for helping me, for helping my family. I love Australia - I am very optimistic about the future for me and my family here.”