‘My dad was attacked by pirates 7 times fleeing Vietnam’

14-year old Sophie Nguyen from Collingwood College in Victoria is a winner in our Junior Blogging Competition. Here she reveals her father’s heroic journey to Australia by boat over 30 years ago and her wish for Australia to help refugees reach safety.

Sophie and her father
Sophie and her father © Private

Recently, the global refugee crisis has become a widely discussed issue. What I can’t understand is how some people have no compassion for these helpless, desperate people. While it’s heartwarming to see so many supporting the #LetThemStay movement, and campaigning for refugees to be accepted into the country — there are also many people who express negative views towards refugees, and those who lack an understanding of the issue. My hope is to raise some awareness about this situation.

My father is Vietnamese. In 1980 he came with his 10-year-old brother from Vietnam to escape the political situation after the Vietnam war. He was eight at the time. As they were running to their escape — a tiny fishing boat — they were shot at by the political groups who didn’t want them leaving the country. Those who survived escaped in the boat and quickly set out to sea.

“As they were running to their escape – a tiny fishing boat – they were shot at by the political groups who didn’t want them leaving the country.”

On the journey they were attacked by pirates seven times, and at one point the pirates tried to cut my uncle’s finger off. The two children were alone in a boat full of strangers, but for one family friend. It would be six years before they were reunited with all of their family again.

They spent 17 nights in the tiny cramped boat, barely surviving the storms, pirates, hunger and thirst. When they were rescued, my father spent three years in a refugee camp in Malaysia before he could go to Australia.

37 years later…

Now my father has a family, a great job, a house, a car and a happy and safe life. If he hadn’t been accepted into Australia, I would not be here today. My dad is a great man. He works hard for his family and his country, and is so grateful to have been given the opportunity he was.

These poor desperate people in a similar situation to my father, flee their homes and families, leaving everything behind, only to be turned away from the one thing that they are looking for — safety. If that’s not torture, I don’t know what is. We can’t even begin to put ourselves in their shoes, and here we are, making decisions for them: whether or not they get to lead a safe and comfortable life. How can we not give them something more?

Of course I understand some of the arguments — we don’t have enough jobs for them, there’s too many, some think we are already doing the best we can.

“These poor desperate people in a similar situation to my father, flee their homes and families, leaving everything behind, only to be turned away from the one thing that they are looking for – safety.”

But, as a wealthy, stable, safe country, I believe we should keep our borders open, and welcome more asylum seekers into the country. We have a responsibility as a nation to do as much for as many people as possible.

It has been said that the most powerful weapon, the most powerful ally, the most powerful motivation, is hope. This is what drove my dad on, to flee his home and family, what made his parents believe he would have a better life here. This is what these desperate people need, and this, is what we are taking away from them.

So I implore you, give them hope. Let them stay.

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This article was contributed by a guest blogger. This blog entry does not necessarily represent the position or opinion of Amnesty International Australia.
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