A Goulburn Valley business owner dubbed “Shepparton’s Schindler” has criticised the Australian government for not responding to his application to sponsor and bring more than 60 Afghan refugees to Australia.
Last year Nabi Baqiri, a Hazara man and former refugee, applied to sponsor 60 Afghan nationals and help bring them to safety in Australia as humanitarian refugees.
Nabi put the applications together not long after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in August last year.
More than eight months later, Nabi hasn’t had any contact from the Department of Immigration about the status of the applications.
“[We] still know nothing about this application,” Nabi told Hack.
Nabi is a successful fruit grower and supplier in the Goulburn Valley, and is offering to feed, house and employ the refugees he wants to sponsor from Afghanistan.
“If they come to Australia, I can guarantee them work. I can guarantee their accommodation. We can teach the community how to live in Australia… how to get their driver’s licence, [teach them] English.”
Nabi’s brother Mohammad is also calling on the Australian government to bring more Afghan refugees to safety – if not for humanitarian reasons, than at least to help fill worker shortages – which have been an issue for Nabi’s business.
Nabi’s son-in-law and employee Shah Mohammad Sharifi said he wanted to see Nabi’s application taken seriously by the Immigration Department.
“I’d really expect them to do a bit more. Because the reason that we actually tried to bring them over here is just to give them a better life, and a safe life, and a better future for the kids.”
“I just really want to tell the Australian government and Australian immigration to help these innocent people.”
Hack contacted the Department of Home Affairs to get an update on the visa applications that Nabi helped submit.
“The Department does not comment on individual cases,” a Departmental spokesperson said.
“Australia’s Humanitarian Program is designed to provide permanent resettlement for refugees and people who are subject to persecution, substantial discrimination or significant harm. Each application is considered on its individual merit using current and comprehensive information on circumstances in the relevant country.
“Over 5,000 Afghan nationals have arrived in Australia on Temporary humanitarian visas, issued to facilitate their urgent travel following the Taliban takeover in August 2021.”
The Departmental spokesperson also said it prioritises Afghan people who used to work with Australian officials, as well as people with ties to Australia and people from minority groups targeted by the Taliban like women and girls, ethnic minorities and LGBTQI people.