Rahman's Story (Visa 866)

One of my working partner in the workshop is Rahman. He was from Afghanistan. He didn't quite look that. Well ok, I admit I don't know how an Afghani normally look like. He has fair skin, brown hair and eyes. He looks younger than his 30 years of age. At first glance, he appeared caucasian, especially the way he speaks. Rahman speaks decent English with almost a slight Aussie slang. Sadly he can possibly speak better than me, only that he has limited vocabulary.

My first thoughts interacting with Rahman was how poor I am in my speech ability. To rub salt into the wound, I overheard Rahman speaking Bahasa Indonesia with Mrs D this morning. How does Rahman speak that language?

Rahman told me he has been in Australia for almost a year now. He misses his wife and child a lot and considered returning to his country to visit them. Indeed, now that he has a proper visa to stay and work in Australia, he can do so. Visa 866 is unheard of, to all Singaporeans researching about migrating to Australia. It is not a visa for the faint hearted. It isn't for Singaporeans even if anyone of you accept the challenge, maybe unless somebody calls in the tanks after a freak election result as promised some years ago.

Determination brought Rahman to Indonesia, where he stayed for a few months. The kind of determination we are referring to not Singapore level, way out of our league. Anyway, that was where he learnt the language. His linguistic abilities are sound, he picked up enough to be quite fluent in just a few months.

"You've got to learn because you've got to learn," he reasoned.

He seemed reluctant to reveal much but in a nutshell he found someone in Indonesia willing to take him to forbidden waters - with a good price of course. They did land in trouble as planned and was handed over to Australian customs. Then he was thrown into detention barracks in Christmas Island for another few months. There was a lapse in his story from here. His days as a refugee did end as we knew his application for Visa 866 went through. After that, his life seemed to have turn for the better after that.

When he first arrived in Perth, he worked as a pizza hand, earning A$20 bucks an hour. Shortly after, he switched to be a replenisher in the cold storage department in Spudshed for a higher wage of A$22 per hour. His job was to stack frozen food in the freezer shelves when these retail frozen supplies ran out. With that, he manage to buy his '98 Toyota Camry at A$4,000. Eventually he joined my current company as a machinist. He is diligent and smart. I can see that the boss likes him a lot.

He spent about A$20,000 for his misadventures. When asked how he accumulated that amount of money he revealed his family own a profitable restaurant and was quite well-off. Money was not a concern for him. Security for his family was what he craves for. As someone coming from a country where security has been taken for granted, I could not understand the extent of the fear that Afghanis are feeling in their countries every day. Hearing Rahman's account of what he went through, it was easier to imagine.

Rahman told me he met a lot of refugees trying to get into Australia the same way as he did in detention. They were largely Burmese, Vietnamese, Iranians, Indonesians and even Malaysians. Not something new to me because I've personally heard from a few Malaysians about their intention to "跳飛機". It means the same thing.

Meanwhile Rahman remarked how lucky I am to have my wife and child with me in Australia. He looked wistfully in a distance and said quietly "If my parents, wife and baby is here, I will never ever return to Afghanistan again." Then he looked at me, perhaps expected a response if I would do the same likewise in that situation.

I did not reply.


  1. WOW! this is the most amazing story of immigrants!

    He got his 866 probably because of his country of origin and good character. Govt give him visa, employers hire him and did not take advantage of his situation by giving him low rates. Shows how humane australians are.

  2. Good story. It tells of intense desire and determination to make a new life in newly adopted country.

  3. I was expecting some story of Ramen when I read the title, but it turns out to be a very touching blog of a Afghanistan. It reminds me of the book I have read - A Thousand Splendid Suns.
    Often as Singaporean, we tend to forget how blessed we have been born in a disaster free and clean country, and we were given the best thing in our hand - the little Red Passport.
    Thank you for sharing.

    1. Ya a little Red Passport that I can't wait to throw away.

  4. aussie ACCENT not aussie slang

  5. He was given a refugee visa. Many years ago(during the onslaught of Chinese) many Indonesians used this Visa to stay in Australia.
    Can't do it anymore..
    Many of my Indonesian friends got the Visa then.
    I also speak bahasa Indonesia you know ... hahah
    As for the pay, the Indonesians(and probably other Asians) tend to get lower pay compared to people from other countries(Middle East, Eastern Europe etc) .. at least in Sydney

  6. wow.. interesting story~