By Bianca Hall
Anglican church parishioners in Melbourne’s inner south have launched a desperate campaign to stop the deportation of Ethiopian woman Yeshiwork Abrha, who fears she will be killed if the federal government sends her home.
Last week, The Age reported on Ms Yeshiwork’s desperate bid to stay in Australia. She says she faces certain incarceration or worse if she is forced to leave the country.
Ms Yeshiwork had been ordered to report to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection last Thursday, after failing in her bid for a protection visa, and having pleas for Immigration Minister Peter Dutton to intervene ignored. Then, the department extended her bridging visa for seven days to give her time to prepare her travel documents to leave.
Ms Yeshiwork’s lawyers on Monday launched a last-ditch effort to have her deportation halted while they are given the chance to review her case, and on Thursday Albert Park MP Martin Foley wrote to Mr Dutton, imploring him to let her stay.
“She has the support of many in our community, including UnitingCare, the Salvation Army and the Anglican archdeacon,” Mr Foley wrote. “In these circumstances I implore the federal minister to exercise his discretion … [and] grant Ms Abrha a protection visa to ensure she is protected from persecution as a political asylum seeker.”
Anglican Parish of the Park members have circulated a petition, which on Wednesday had more than 300 signatures calling for her to be allowed to stay, and Archdeacon Ray McInnes has lobbied Mr Dutton on her behalf.
Ms Yeshiwork is an active member of the pro-democracy opposition group Ginbot 7. In 2011, the government declared it and four other opposition groups to be terrorist organisations, forcing thousands to flee Ethiopia.
At the 2011 census, there were 8453 Ethiopian-born Australians living in the country, most of whom in Victoria. The vast majority are political refugees.
Ginbot 7’s leader, Andargachew Tsege – for whom Ms Yeshiwork worked in Ethiopia – wrote to the Refugee Review Tribunal on her behalf in 2012, in a letter seen by Fairfax Media.
He wrote: “Ms Yeshiwork is one of our active member [sic] in Melbourne, Australia which is known by the international security tentacles [sic] of the Ethiopian regime operating from each Embassies around the world [sic]…We strongly believe that if forced to return to Ethiopia she would gravely suffer in the hands of the agents of the repressive regime”.
Two years later, Mr Andargachew, a British citizen, was abducted by Ethiopian security forces during a stop-over in Yemen, and taken back to Ethiopia. He has been on death row in Ethiopia ever since.