This story puts a human face to the ongoing issue of asylum-seekers and shows how a school community continues to rally around a young woman who has won their hearts, but faces an uncertain future.
When Australian Story first told of the challenges faced by young Iranian asylum-seeker Mojgan Shamsalipoor, in July last year, she was in immigration detention with no prospect of release.
However, in September the 23-year-old student received a temporary reprieve when immigration minister Peter Dutton granted her a bridging visa, under which she was released from detention and allowed to return to live with her husband and his family in Brisbane.
“I get goosebumps still. When they opened the door and they said, you're free to go … it was like a miracle.” – Mojgan Shamsalipoor, asylum-seeker
“She wanted to surprise me. I could have died by this news!” – Milad Jafari, husband
But Mojgan’s future remains uncertain, with her temporary visa due to expire this month.
“While we welcome the decision … the minister has not gone far enough to grant her certainty over her future in Australia. Mojgan is still effectively in limbo”. – Kevin Kadirgamar, solicitor
“It’s not the end of the journey because she’s still not free. She’s living in our community, but it’s on borrowed time.” – Jessica Walker, teacher and deputy principal
Mojgan came to Australia in 2012, aged 17, after fleeing terrible abuse and trauma in Iran and undertaking a risky sea voyage to Christmas Island. She was temporarily allowed to live in the community while her application for a protection visa was assessed.
At a youth camp she met and fell in love with another young Iranian, refugee Milad Jafari, and with his help she was accepted as a student at Yeronga State High School in Brisbane.
With support from teachers and students, she regained her self-confidence and became a very popular member of the community. Despite her apparent good fortune, Australia’s Refugee Tribunal decided in 2015 that her case for asylum was not legitimate, so Mojgan was returned to detention and faced likely deportation.
The Yeronga school community continued to campaign tirelessly for Mojgan to be accepted as a refugee and her former teachers kept her education on track while she was in detention. After her release on the bridging visa last September, the school organized a delayed Year 12 school graduation ceremony for her.
Now, Mojgan has returned to her studies while she, Milad and their supporters await the immigration minister’s next decision on her future.
On Borrowed Time premieres on Australian Story, 8pm Monday, 13 March 2017