Family's Asylum Fight Spotlights Australia's Refugee Woes

Rights groups have reacted angrily to the government's charges that the family is Pakistani. "It is totally inappropriate and unacceptable for the government to make such public comments before the case has been finally resolved," says Lester. "The government is discrediting this person rather than give him the opportunity to have the merits of his case — and that of both sides — officially considered."

While Sirang worries that Baktiyari's temporary protection visa will be revoked when it comes up for review next year, rights groups are not willing to comment on a possible outcome.

"I don't know where this is going to lead," says Lester. "What I can certainly say is I hope his right to have a fair consideration of his claims — and that of his family's — is not compromised."

Meanwhile, Sirang says his friend worries about his children's physical and mental health in Woomera.

A report by Woomera detention center psychologist Marie O'Neill last year found his eldest boy, Alamdar, to be severely depressed and traumatized by the conditions around him.

"The mother cannot control them, she's an illiterate woman from the village," says Sirang. "The boys are mental cases — they've been though so much trauma, they tell their father how they've seen grown men slash their stomachs and people sew their lips together. We have to help this family. We have to help all families who have to live this way."

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