Saturday, December 4

Iraqi barber desperate to bring family to New Zealand

An Iraqi hairdresser living in Napier says he could be forced to close down and leave if he cannot bring his family to the country.

Bilal Al-Sharmy at his Greats Cuts and Colors salon in Napier.

Bilal Al-Sharmy at his Greats Cuts and Colors salon in Napier.
Photo: RNZ / Tom Kitchin

Her sister and her family are in Indonesia as asylum seekers, after threats from Isis drove them out of Iraq.

This occurs when New Zealand is well below its refugee quota, with some saying that the resettlement center in Auckland should function as an MIQ facility.

Bilal Al-Shamry built his business from scratch, but said he was willing to throw it all away for his sister and family.

“I worked hard to get busy and get a good name and all that, but this is nothing to me when it comes to my sister. I don’t care. If I can start here from nothing, I can start somewhere from nothing too, but I don’t want to. This place is my home. “

His regulars said they didn’t want him to leave.

“I would be very disappointed if it got to that point and it will probably push me to advocate through my networks as well,” said one of his clients.

“I think a lot of people would be upset, he’s probably one of the best known barbers in this area,” said another customer.

“It’s quite busy and quite popular so yeah no it would be a waste to go … he’s basically the only one who could do my hair, especially my curly hair,” said a third client.

In 2006, under threat of kidnapping, Al-Shamry moved from Iraq to Syria. Came to New Zealand in 2010.

“Actually, it’s great, it’s amazing to be here, free, to work, to live a good life, a decent life, you know. The only difficult thing is that there is no family around you.”

He lives in New Zealand with his mother, his wife and their one-year-old son, but said his family was not complete.

Her sister, her husband and their three children led peaceful lives in the Iraqi city of Mosul when their world was turned upside down when the threat of Isis came in 2014.

His sister’s husband was working in a passport office when two Isis affiliates threatened to kill him because he would not issue passports without official documents.

The family escaped to Beirut in Lebanon and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees granted them refugee status.

But one day, at a police checkpoint, an officer did not accept her husband’s refugee status letter and said he was an illegal resident. Suddenly, they were again forced to leave.

Eventually, they found out that Indonesia would accept them, and they had been there for five years as asylum seekers.

Al-Shamry said they had tried every avenue to get them to New Zealand, including harassing the local MP.

“They’ve tried and we haven’t had any luck. One of my attorneys said let’s go see Stuart Nash and see what he can do for us.”

Nash told RNZ that refugee status for people abroad was determined by the United Nations and that the government could not influence its decision.

Undeterred, Al-Shamry even tried to find Nash’s boss.

Accommodation buildings of the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Center.

Māngere Refugee Resettlement Center.
Photo: RNZ / Israa Emhail

“Every time I hear Prime Minister Jacinda in Hawke’s Bay, I honestly can’t believe it, I’ll stop working, take a break and drive and try to find her so I can tell her the story.”

New Zealand’s annual refugee quota increased to 1,500 places a year as of July 2020.

But since then, largely due to the pandemic, fewer than 400 have arrived.

Asylum Seekers Support Trust CEO Tim Maurice thought there might be a way around it.

“The fact that we have a refugee resettlement center in Māngere, it is a completely closed area, it would seem ideal as a place to quarantine people, so we feel that with a little more organization from the government, They could be accepting many more refugees, existing and non-impacting MIQ spaces for other New Zealanders. “

The United Nations Refugee Agency said there are currently far more refugees in Indonesia than there are places available for resettlement.

But that would not stop Al-Shamry, even though it had “been a mission,” he said he would never give up hope.

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