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Iraqi Christian refugees find a new home in Sydney

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Saadi and Asia at their new home.
Saadi and Asia at their new home.

Have you ever been handed a flyer featuring a photo of yourself, calling for your own death?

Saadi Maklef has. He and his wife Asia are refugees who came to Australia in 2011.

The couple once led successful lives in Iraq where they taught physics and biology and practised their Christian faith.

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But as persecution by religious extremists intensified – resulting in an attempt on Asia’s life and threats to Saadi’s – the Maklefs were forced to seek refuge in Syria.

“When my students began showing me my photo [on flyers calling for my death], I knew we were in grave danger,” said Saadi.

“We stopped going to work and visiting family and friends. We remained in our home, living in fear, until we had the chance to flee to Syria.”

In Syria, the Maklefs were welcomed by the local church and supported by the United Nations. However, their new life would prove to be nearly as difficult as the one they left behind.

Asia suffered a stroke, caused by the stress of leaving their home and loved ones, which left her with an acquired brain injury and no movement on her left side.

On the UN’s advice, Saadi and Asia applied for migration to Australia where they could access more advanced medical care. In 2011, their application was approved and the Maklefs once again uprooted their entire lives.

“When we fled we left everything behind,” said Saadi. “We left our home, money, property, education and jobs.”

However, the couple’s dream of a more peaceful life in Australia was not to last. In 2014, Saadi was injured by a fall. After seven operations and five months in hospital, he had lost the ability to walk.

Thankfully, a social worker at Liverpool hospital recognised the Maklefs’ desperate situation and referred them to CatholicCare, the archdiocese’s official welfare agency, which helps support refugees and asylum seekers.

When CatholicCare caseworker Samia Guirgis met Saadi and Asia she knew they urgently needed more appropriate housing.

“They were living in a tiny granny flat with no bathroom or toilet that flooded every time it rained,” she said. “With both spending most of their time in wheelchairs I knew they needed to move.”

Through CatholicCare’s Assistance with Care and Housing for the Aged program, the couple was settled in a brand new two-bedroom townhouse in Liverpool.

In their new home, with the support of CatholicCare, Saadi and Asia are optimistic about what’s to come.

“CatholicCare has treated us better than family,” said Saadi. “We now have hope for the future and feel like we’re finally on the right path.

“I have a beautiful home, my wife is well cared for and I am a happy man. What more can I ask for?”

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