A VIETNAMESE man who arrived in Australia as a refugee is lugging a boat from Melbourne to Canberra with three Iranian asylum seekers to put a human face to the debate.
When Tri Nguyen arrived in Australia in 1982, aged 10, he was greeted with open arms, a different experience to those coming today.
He was traumatised from the “horrific” escape and gun-toting pirates who captured the refugee boat he had fled in.
But the Brunswick Baptist pastor said he, his father and sister were taken to a Maribyrnong hostel, with no barb wire fences, and were given food, clothes and English lessons on arrival to Australia.
“We are at our best when we welcome the stranger, we are at our best when we show compassion to the vulnerable, we are at our best when we work for justice for those who have lost everything,” Mr Nguyen said.
The 42-year-old stopped in Wodonga last night where he and the Iranians shared their different experiences seeking asylum at the Baptist Church.
Linda Kasravi fled Iran nine months ago where she was persecuted and marginalised for being Kurdish.
When she arrived at Christmas Island by boat, she was denied access to a passport and was forced to share a small room with 20 people and two toilets between 200 for 45 days.
She was given no changes of clothing.
Mr Nguyen called for an end to offshore processing.
He is making the 35-day journey to thank Australians for the way he was treated and to raise money for Sanctuary, Baptcare’s asylum-seeker accommodation program.