Karim was born in Pakistan where he grew up experiencing persecution and discrimination as a member of the Hazara ethnic minority. Karim cannot read or write as he didn’t have the opportunity to go to school because of the ethnic discrimination he faced in Pakistan. In 2013, he was just 18 years old when he fled to Indonesia and on to Australia by boat.
On arrival in Australia, Karim was sent to immigration detention on Christmas Island where he spent the next 4 months before being transferred to Melbourne.
Though he was safe, it was very difficult for Karim to settle in Australia. He was here alone except for a distant uncle who had arrived in Australia in 2000. Apart from the sense of isolation, he faced other significant barriers – Karim struggled to find a job as he lacked confidence and English language skills. He became overwhelmed by his lack of support and financial hardship, and sadly became homeless.
Karim’s situation deteriorated further when he turned to alcohol to deal with the stresses in his life. Being alone had taken its toll, so in 2017 he travelled to Sydney to visit a friend he had met on Christmas Island. Before Karim boarded the bus back to Melbourne, he had a few hours to spare so he went to a local hotel where he drank too much and became intoxicated. He wound up lost, confused and upset at a Western Sydney train station.
Four Police Officers surrounded Karim on the platform and requested proof of a valid ticket and identification. Karim was frightened by the interaction with Police because he did not know what might happen or what the Police were trying to tell him. He argued with the Police who then handcuffed and arrested him.
Karim was deeply embarrassed, ashamed and apologetic to Police about his behaviour after having sobered up at the Police Station.
He was charged with five offences, with the most serious being ‘resist or hinder police officer in the execution of duty’ carrying a maximum sentence of five years’ imprisonment. The implications of the charges could have been catastrophic for Karim because of his temporary visa status – he could potentially be at risk of having his visa cancelled and being removed from the safety of Australia back to the conditions he fled in 2013.
Karim approached our Melbourne office hoping to get assistance with his Court matter in Sydney. Given the high stakes involved, and Karim’s vulnerability and remorse, our Sydney office took on his case.
We received the Police brief of evidence and reviewed the material and the charge list. We were able to successfully negotiate with the prosecution to reduce the charges, to which Karim pleaded guilty. Ultimately, the Court issued two fines and the other three charges incurred no penalty. This was a great outcome for Karim who had no previous criminal record and faced an unintended penalty that was completely disproportionate to his poor behaviour.
Karim is a young man who has experienced significant trauma and had undertaken a risky journey to find safety. Our involvement allowed Karim the opportunity to reflect on his situation, and seek the help he needs to develop the skills and resilience to succeed in Australia. Karim is now in regular contact with his caseworker and has joined a refuge support group as well as a youth homelessness group in Melbourne. We were very pleased with the Court outcome which will not have any adverse ramifications for Karim’s immigration status in Australia.