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Returning deportees say Afghanistan was "like hell"

Two Afghan asylum seeker students from an Adelaide Catholic school who were deported from Australia in October have described their homeland as being like something out of hell.

The pair from the Jesuits' St Ignatius College has just returned from spending two months in Afghanistan in order to secure student visas.

Safar Fidaie and Ishmail Ibrahimi were released from detention two years ago.

They have now organised student visas through an agreement between St Ignatius and the Federal Government.

Safar Fidaie says he did not enjoy his compulsory eight weeks in Afghanistan.

"Afghanistan is like hell - but really I didn't see hell ... but Afghanistan is like hell," he said.

He says one of his friends survived a shooting at the hands of Taliban loyalists, and he was taught how to avoid land mines.

The St Ignatius College students say they hope to become civil engineers and to one day help rebuild their homeland.

Headmaster Fr Greg O'Kelly (pictured) told The Southern Cross that the visa situation was "intolerable".

"These students were sent back to a place that is still dangerous. Afghanistan has slipped out of the world's consciousness because of Iraq, but things aren't at all safe there."

He said an email from Safar spoke of schools reduced to rubble by bombings, of children with no facilities to study and of power struggles between local war lords.

Fr O'Kelly urged the Government to consider a ministerial fiat, in order to change the students' status.

"They could say, 'well the students have had three-and-half years of endurance and we've made our point and they're obviously not a threat to Australia.' It could be our way of helping to build up a war-torn Afghanistan."

"I think it's intolerable. Especially when Safar and Ismail want to stay in Australia to study and then return to their country to help rebuild it. I think what they are trying to do is very noble. And I think it's something we should support in Australia."

Fr O'Kelly stressed, however, that immigration officials the school had dealt with had been "decent and hardworking on our behalf. They are somewhat embarrassed at the boundaries within which they have to work."

Afghanistan like hell, returning deportees say (ABC 4/12/03)
Faces of uncertainty (Southern Cross December 2003)

Email from deported refugee student (Latest News,
Deported Afghan schoolboys allowed to return (ABC 12/11/03)
What would Jesus have done? (Southern Cross December 2003)
Saint Ignatius College

5 Dec 2003