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Haji: a young man's quest to give back

As a 16 year old in Afghanistan, after being brutally attacked by the Taliban several times, Haji Alizada feared the next attack could be a fatal one.

Haji, who comes from the Hazara ethnic minority group in his home country of Afghanistan made the difficult decision to leave his family and friends, and flee his country.

He embarked alone on a dangerous journey which took him to India, Malaysia, Indonesia and finally by boat to Australia. He says on the way to Australia the boat broke up and the passengers ended up in the ocean, before being rescued by the Australian Navy which took them to Christmas Island.

After spending time in immigration detention centres and community detention, with the support of Australian Red Cross he's now living in Hobart and studying business and management full-time. His dream is to be an international lawyer.

Haji volunteers as a speaker at community events to build understanding about the lives or refugees and asylum seekers.

"If I could stay alive in Afghanistan I wouldn't leave. Like many other asylum seekers the last option was leaving. For me the choice was getting killed or joining the Taliban which for me I would never join them. It was something I had to do, otherwise I would get killed. I had to make that journey. It was very difficult especially from Indonesia to Australia on a boat. We thought we had a 99 percent chance of dying and one percent chance of getting alive to Australia.

"There's a lack of understanding between Australians and asylum seekers and refugees. A lot of people here think asylum seekers and refugees are different in the way they look. People ask how, 'Are they going to behave in the community? Are they going to make trouble or be violent? Al ot of people think that way which is not true.

"People are like myself. We fled from the war. We are sick of war and violence. We want somewhere where we can have a good life; that's all we want. At the same time I want to educate people about asylum seekers and refugees about why people leave their country and what they want.

"We don't want to take jobs. We are here to create jobs and improve the economy of this country.

"I want to educate people about Islam. It is not about war. The real Islam is about peace, loving, sharing and caring. The media present it in a different way. A wrong way."

Haji's main message to Australians is to reach out.

"Don't feel afraid and embarrassed about asking refugees and asylum seekers questions. Lots of people don't know how to interact with newcomers. There's nothing wrong with that. There's lots of things we can learn from each other. I encourage people to talk and ask and share because that's the only way we can get better understanding.

"I want to help people because a lot of people have helped me in the past."

Haji is grateful to Red Cross for helping him get housing and voluntary work.

"Red Cross has done massive work. It has helped me. They do a brilliant job in the community."

Learn more about our work with asylum seekers.