Is this the face of a genuine refugee?

No topic of conversation divides a dinner party quite like refugees.

On one hand, some people are scared and want to keep Australia’s borders protected, lest we accidentally allow potential terrorists into our community.

On the other hand, others believe we should open our hearts and our resources to those who are fleeing genuinely horrific circumstances.


(For the record, I stand firmly in the second camp: I feel beyond lucky to call Australia home, but I don’t feel like any of us should be able to deny other people that good fortune.)

But it begs the question: what does a genuine refugee look like?

Is it someone who was being abused or tortured in their home country?

Is it someone who is fleeing violence and oppression?

Is it someone who truly fears for their safety if they return to the country they were born in?

Officially, this is the definition, as described by the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees:

Any person who, owing to a well founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his/her nationality and is unable, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself/herself of the protection of that country.

In Australia, this is the process we use to decide whether an asylum seeker has a genuine case for staying in this country.

And last month, this process saw fit to deny Mojgan Shamsalipoor – an Iranian who was raped as a teenager by her stepfather – the right to live in Australia.

The Brisbane resident, who has been living in Australia for five years, must return to Iran, where she faces the threat of sexual violence and torture, by Christmas this year.

Her lawyer confirmed that this decision by Immigration Minister Peter Dutton “would see her ripped away from her husband and community, and sent back to the country where she was horrifically violated and subjected to appalling domestic violence.”

It honestly begs the question: if Mojgan isn’t the face of a genuine refugee, then what is?