Family fears for their lives if they are forced back to Egypt

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SIX-year-old Rita Nahal has never been to Egypt, but she is about to be sent there after her family lost its seven-year bid for asylum.

 

 

The Australian-born grade 1 student at Ringwood’s Our Lady of Perpetual Help speaks only a few words of Arabic and has little understanding of the political upheaval that continues to shake her parents’ homeland.

But as early as Wednesday, the family could all be deported from Australia after her Christian Coptic parents, Antoun Nahal and Dalia Abdel Sayed, and her grandmother, Nabila Soliman, lost their fight to stay.

The family say they face violent persecution back in Egypt because of their religion.

Their deportation order comes despite government travel advice for Egypt noting a rise in sectarian tensions and warning that “Islamist extremists have made threats against Coptic churches”.

It also follows a string of high-profile attacks against Copts and their churches in the wake of the country’s revolution.

The family say they are praying for a last-minute intervention from Immigration Minister Chris Bowen to keep them in their adopted homeland, where they already have relatives living.

Gorton federal Labor MP Brendan O’Connor and Menzies federal Liberal MP Kevin Andrews have both written in support of the family’s asylum bid, along with numerous community members.

“There is no security in Egypt,” Mr Nahal said.

“My daughter has grown up here in a peaceful place with a peaceful people. What will her situation be when she returns to a country where people are killing each other in the streets?

“What will she think when she is stopped in the street and told to cover her hair? What is going to happen to us?”

Mr Nahal, his pregnant wife and his mother-in-law came to Australia in 2004 on tourist visas.

The couple quickly applied for asylum, claiming Dalia’s boss had pressured her to convert to Islam and marry him. When she refused he doctored false charges of theft against her and intimidated her family at their home.

The Department of Immigration rejected their claim, saying the harassment was “private and personal”.

Numerous requests for direct intervention by successive immigration ministers have also fallen on deaf ears.

The family’s last appeal to Mr Bowen noted that while “there has been an increase in instances of violence” against Copts, there was no indication that the family will face “serious harm or be personally targeted” on their return.

Australian Coptic Movement spokesman Peter Tadros said attacks against Christians in Egypt had spun “out of control” since the overthrow of the country’s former ruler, Hosni Mubarak.

“The government is not providing any protection at all and there are incidents where the authorities and military are participating in attacks,” Mr Tadros said.

Read Full Article: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/more-news/seven-year-fight-may-end-in-pain/story-fn7x8me2-1226162085091

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