Education International Justice MDIA2003_18 MDIA2003Profile MDIA2003Wed2.30

Production Project 1 by Camilla Theakstone and Maya Skidmore


Left: Local fruits reminiscent of her home in Iran. Right: Mehravar “Mazee” Marzbani surrounded by her traditional furniture from her home in Iran.


Why refugees turn to crime: a migrant’s story 

Mehravar “Nazee” Marzbani is a psychologist and national social planner from Iran, who holds a passion for advocating for refugees fleeing their war-torn countries.


Marzbani fled her home country with her family in the 1970s to escape the violent Iranian Revolution and find safety in Australia.


She migrated from Iran to Europe, and then finally settled into Australia through her husband’s work with IBM.


While she admits that she had a comfortable journey fleeing Iran through her husband’s work, she confessed that there are many others who are less fortunate than her.


“Migrants make a choice to leave; refugees don’t have a choice.” she admitted.


“Refugees run away just only to survive – they can’t survive at home for many, many reasons.


“The few that survived are not treated right – they don’t have their rights anywhere.”


Despite Marzbani’s easy transition to Australia, she also described her time as “difficult”.


Although she has extensive qualifications and experience as a psychologist, she found that her Iranian name was the reason for her not obtaining work.


“Mainly after interviews… I received the ‘no thanks’ letter… (they used) a very good excuse: ‘over-qualified’,” she laughed.


It was only until she changed her name from Mehravar to “Mary”  on her application papers that she got a job working as a psychologist in the North Shore and surrounding areas.


Image: The traditional Iranian tableware Marzbani brought from her home in 1979.


Marzbani also claimed that Australia is selective with their acceptance and treatment of their refugees and migrants.


According to her, Australia prefers refugees and migrants if they have a substantial amount of money – regardless of how it was obtained.


“A lot of people came to Australia based on their money… we call them economy migrants.


“They come with millions of dollars, and they were welcomed because they paid few hundred thousand dollars to their lawyers and they were accepted…


“How is it that someone of average age… can earn millions of dollars?” she asked.


Stemming from her frustration at the inequality in our refugee-intake system, Marzbani began to devote her time to give back to Iranian refugees.


She does this through regularly visiting Villawood detention centre, home to 1,392 refugees, and provides them with traditional Iranian meals and speaking to them in their native language.


“They come alone… they need someone else to see… to become friends.


“It’s very simple… we (her and her family) help them.” she said.


Marzbani claimed that refugees caught up in Australia’s current social-political crisis have been stripped of their rights by the government refusing to take responsibility for rehoming them.


“They (the Australian government) don’t want to take responsibility for their destruction as allies in these countries,” she stated.


“It makes it easy for them, but it is not human… I think they don’t believe in humanity.”


“The comfort here that we have, the luxury, the safety that we have – it is based on the blood of these people…” she stated.


Marzbani claimed that Australia’s prejudice and inaction in giving refugees work and effective rehabilitation is leading them into a life of crime.


“These people that think they’re criminals – we make them criminals.” she claimed.


“They came to work, they showed they are ready to work… they showed that they want to be a butcher… a cleaner… (work in) construction.


“But the law makes them (commit) fraud, pushes them in the corner and they become lazy… they become used to easy money.”


According to Marzbani, refugees are committing fraud and becoming lazy because the government is handing them Centrelink payments, rather than economic opportunities, such as stable work.


“Centrelink is wasting (their) money… Why should we give them money? It produces a lot of problems… Centrelink is destructive.


“First of all, they will get used to the easy money, and then they don’t try… that is a killer…


“Easy money means that you are not responsible, you don’t work hard, you don’t use your brain or ambition…


Marzbani believes the only solution is simple – provide the refugees in detention centres with specialised support and give them stable work.


“Some specialists to create laws, to support them, to give them a real situation to work… they don’t have anyone anywhere in Australia.


“We need (someone) to (work on) the farms, we take them there – this is one of the conditions…


“Work for everyone… Work is the main thing that keeps you going, keeps you proud, keeps you happy, gives you energy… you feel important and that you are doing something” she insisted.


Despite Marzbani’s heavy criticism of the government’s response to the refugee crisis – she has claimed that she is ready to put herself forward to support displaced refugees.


“As an Iranian, I am ready to provide guidance… they do not have anyone to support them (or help them) rent a place… they don’t have any information” she said.


“In the camps, they need to work on education and language… many of them came here to study, because they didn’t have the chance in their country.


“We should give them this opportunity.”


However, it’s not just the lack of social planning and economic opportunities that Marzbani believes contributes to this problem – it’s also the detention centres.


“Detention centre is a nice way of saying ‘prison’,” she revealed.


“It is wrong, it is inhumane… it is absolutely disastrous.


“I think Australia will lose a lot of credibility.” Marzbani stated.


“One day (refugees) will have power, they will be educated here, they will be politicians, there will be a lot of effective people.


“They will not let it be like this… maybe they will bring a good change.” she said.


When asked about what changes she would like to see towards our refugees, she said that she wanted to see Australia take responsibility for homing them.


“We should welcome them now for the purpose of humanity… I’m sure if Mr. Turnbull bring them in (and) give a good chance to the refugees, it will help him to stay in power,” she claims.


“They are assets – they came here to work. We should give them a chance.


“I am a social planner, I was planning for the country, Iran, for many, many groups – mental health, intellectually delayed, for the prisoners…  We had a plan for them.


“We can have a plan (for the refugees) especially with the money we have.”


DISCLAIMER** Unfortunately we were unable to provide any photos of the interviewees face due to her not feeling comfortable. This was very unfortunate.