Sydney family in desperate fight to get adopted son out of Afghanistan

© Provided by ABC NEWS Faiz, seated third from the right, was unable to join his family when they migrated to Australia from Afghanistan in 2017. (Supplied)

Ismail and Laila* Akbari call their son every day to confirm he is alive.

Their eldest boy, Faiz*, is trapped and alone in Afghanistan’s capital Kabul. He is 16.

“We’ve warned him not to come out of the house because of the danger that he’s facing,” Mr Akbari said.

“We are fearing the Taliban. If they see him or identify him, he might be targeted.”

The family are part of the Hazara community, an ethnic group the Taliban — who stormed Kabul on August 15 —have pursued and persecuted.

Mr Akbari arrived in Australia by boat in 2010, and after spending time in various detention centres he began the legal process to try and bring his family over.

In 2017, Laila Akbari was granted a partner visa and all but one of her children were considered dependants.

Faiz, who is adopted at birth, was refused entry to Australia.

Director of the Sydney-based Immigration Advice and Rights Centre (IARC) Gregory Rohan, said the family’s circumstances were “unique”.

“They raised him since he was born, his mother died at childbirth, so he is their son and under Australian immigration law he is recognised as their son,” Mr Rohan said.

“Somehow this visa was refused, [due to] a failure to recognise the relationship between the child and his family, and on this basis the visa was refused.

“That’s what created this terrible, terrible situation for the family.”

Laila made the difficult decision to accept the visa and move to Australia with her other six children, in the hope she could have his visa ruling rectified soon after.

“The family is just devastated and everyday it brings something new to amplify their grief, the boy’s mother is just so wracked with guilt about the decisions they’ve made,” Mr Rohan said.

“I think a decision we would all absolutely struggle with making, she would put her own life on the line to go back to Kabul to be with him if she could.”

The teenager had been living with extended family up until late last year, but they too have since managed to escape the war-torn country.

For nearly five years, his parents have been fighting to get him a visa so he can join them in Australia.

“I have pain in my heart and my family is affected by this situation,” Mr Akbari said.

“I cannot put my feelings into words, I just wish to be reunited with my son.”

IARC began assisting the family with the legal process more than a year ago but have made little progress.

Mr Rohan said “for the most part there has been no response” from the Department of Home Affairs.

“We reached out to MPs and asked for some help in intervening in the case and they’ve made representations for us that finally resulted in contact from the Department of Home Affairs asking me for additional paperwork to prove that I was their lawyer.

“That’s the extent of the response we’ve received.”

In a statement to the ABC, a government spokesperson said the Department of Home Affairs “does not comment on individual cases.”

“The Australian Government announced on 18 August 2021 that Afghan citizens will be prioritised for processing within Australia’s offshore Humanitarian Program,” the statement said.

“Particular priority will be given to persecuted minorities, women and children and those who have links to Australia.”

But Faiz’s parents feel “let down” by the Australian government and say the lengthy process has affected their mental health.

“I’m tired of this process, I’ve approached different organisations for help but it has taken so long and it’s come to this now [that] my wife is feeling half [of] herself is here and half is in Afghanistan,” Mr Akbari said.

In October 2001, Australia joined the United States-led war in Afghanistan to remove the Taliban from power and fight al-Qaeda forces in the country.

The Australian Defence Force had a military presence there for two decades.

But the Akbari family now fears it is too late to rescue their son after Australia’s evacuation mission ended abruptly in late August due to security concerns.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison praised the work of the defence force after they successfully retrieved 4,100 people, including Australians and Afghan nationals with Australian visas.

“The government is working to ensure that visa options continue to be available to Afghan nationals, both within Afghanistan and those displaced from their home country, through Australia’s long-standing Humanitarian and Migration Programs,” a spokesperson for the Department of Home Affairs said.

The family isn’t giving up and hope Faiz will now be prioritised by government authorities.

“We’re going to keep fighting to get this visa, for this boy, that he’s entitled to have under the law,” Mr Rohan said.

“This is a child that’s alone in Kabul, it’s almost unimaginable.

“At the moment we’re focusing on what we can, which is to try to get the Australian government to issue this visa, so that if the opportunity does come up to get out somehow, that he’s got a visa, he can come to Australia and be with his family.”

* The names of several people in this story have been changed to protect their identity.

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