Asylum seeker's cricket skills earns an Australia visa

- Posted in Australia by Dominicon 15 November 2012

Fawad Ahmed has been granted
an Australia visa thanks to his
bowling skills.

A Pakistani asylum seeker who fled his home country fearing persecution after advocating Western values has been granted an Australian visa due to his prodigious cricket skills.

Fawad Ahmed fled Pakistan after allegedly receiving death threats due to his love of cricket and association with groups promoting Western values, including the education of women and girls. After arriving in Australia as an asylum seeker, his original Australia visa application was rejected by the Refugee Review Tribunal.

However, while his case was appealed, the Australian national cricket team flew Mr Ahmed to Brisbane to utilise his leg-spinner skills as the team prepared for their first Test match against South Africa.

And now Mr Ahmed has been personally granted an Australia visa providing him with permanent residency after Immigration Minister Chris Bowen intervened in the case.

"The Immigration Minister Chris Bowen has personally considered Mr Ahmed's case and decided to grant a permanent visa for him to be able to stay, work and play cricket in Australia, subject to the normal health and security checks which he'll now undertake," said a spokesperson for the minister.

Mr Ahmed's future now looks a lot brighter with the prospect of playing in Cricket Australia's Big Bash League; Mr Ahmed celebrated by taking five wickets in a match for Melbourne University.

"This is such a special moment in my life," said Mr Ahmed. "I'm hopeful I can play the highest level cricket as well. I'm really grateful to the government and all the people in cricket who helped me, and thanks be to almighty God because I have waited for a long time.

"The last three years was a very hard time, I couldn't sleep at night times because it was very stressful. I was so anxious I couldn't perform well [at cricket]. I'm pretty happy because I can all that behind me and look forward to my future and start a new life here in Melbourne."

The asylum seeking issue has divided Australia all year, record numbers of asylum seekers have arrived month on month despite the re-implementation of controversial offshore processing measures in September. While the processing of asylum seekers away from the Australian mainland was hoped to provide a suitable deterrent, in reality all that has happened is reports of hunger strikes and poor conditions in temporary camps have emerged.

However, Leonie Cotton, casework manager at the Australian Visa Bureau, says despite all this, it's a promising sign that talent can emerge through the struggles of asylum seeking and provide an inspiration to others:

"While not every asylum seeker can be blessed with the talent to put Australia's best batsmen to the test, Mr Ahmed's rags-to-riches story casts an inspirational light on a very controversial and difficult issue."

- Dominic Ladden-Powell is the Online Editor for the Australian Visa Bureau.