Five minutes with Daniel Ghezelbash

Five minutes with Daniel Ghezelbash

Five minutes with Daniel Ghezelbash

What do you do/study?

All things refugees. My research examines government measures aimed at keeping asylum seekers away. My recent book, Refuge Lost, looks at the way states are competing and copying each other to achieve this goal, and the terrible example Australia’s asylum policies have been setting for the rest of the world. My latest project looks at the search and rescue of asylum seekers at sea. I’m working closely with NGOs who have carried out search and rescue of migrants in Mediterranean to learn from their experience, and draw lessons for the Asia Pacific region to enhance safety at sea. I’m also a practicing refugee and migration lawyer. I’m the founding director of the Macquarie Social Justice Clinic, through which I work with students and leading Australian human rights lawyers on social justice litigation. We have worked on some very high profile and exciting cases, including assisting the National Justice Project in their bids to evacuate refugee kids from Nauru for medical treatment.

What would people be surprised to know about you or your work?

The thing people generally find most surprising is the work I do assisting aboriginal men facing deportation from Australia. Generally, these are men who were born in New Zealand, but have aboriginal ancestry. They get into a bit of trouble with the law, and then the government cancels their visas on character grounds. It’s outrageous, and there is not much awareness about the scale on which this is happening. The government is trying to deport the original inhabitants of this land. They trace their lineage to long before the arrival of white people and these immigration laws which were imposed on them.

What’s been the happiest moment of your life so far?

The birth of my son. He’s the light of life, and much of my work is motivated by the goal of creating a more just and equitable society for him to thrive in.

What is your greatest struggle right now?

Winning the hearts and minds of the Australian public on refugee issues. That is the only way we will see a shift away from Australia’s current harsh (and unlawful) approach. As long as the government thinks there are votes in treating asylum seekers cruely, then this is what they will deliver. But I’m optimistic. The Kids off Nauru campaign over the last few months, shows that it is possible to change public opinion, and just last week, the government confirmed that they will bring all the refugee and asylum seeker kids from Nauru to Australia by Christmas.

Who is the most influential person in your life?

I’m going to cheat, and nominate two people: my parents. It took great courage for them to flee their native Iran in the aftermath of the Islamic revolution, and seek refuge in Australia. They gave up everything to set me up with the opportunity to live a safe, happy and fulfilled life. This motivates my work assisting refugees, who all deserve those same opportunities

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