Afghan student strikes visa hitch

AHMAD Waris has come to call Launceston his adopted home but visa conditions could see him sent back to war-torn Afghanistan in six months.

This 17-year-old from Kabul, has been living in Tasmania since 2011 but without financial support to continue with his engineering degree, his international student visa will be cancelled by the federal government and he will be forced to return to a country where he no longer has family.

Launceston is a world away from a life where he would be routinely followed by thieves, walk past bombed-out buildings and fear for the lives of his family.

Ahmad came to Launceston thanks to a speech by a United Nations representative at a Round Square International conference at which former Scotch Oakburn College principal Andrew Barr attended.

When the schools attending were asked to show their support for the work of the UN in educating individuals who may not have an opportunity otherwise, Mr Barr offered a scholarship to Ahmad.

Ahmad arrived in 2011 and said Australia has given him an opportunity to gain an education he would never have been able to attain in Afghanistan.

The school's head of boarding and Ahmad's guardian Andrew French described him as a hardworking and well liked student and on the completion of his Tasmanian Certificate of Education last year, he was one of Scotch Oakburn's highest academic performers and ranked in the top 20 per cent in Australia.

Ahmad dreams of becoming a civil engineer and returning to Afghanistan to help rebuild the country after decades of destruction.

Last week he began an engineering degree at the University of Tasmania. However to continue he needs to show the federal government he has the financial means to support himself as an international student.

Although his parents and siblings are in Turkey now - having fled there because of threats made to his mother because she was a women's rights activist - they do not have the financial means to support their son.

Also if he is deported, he will not be sent to Turkey to be with his family but back to Afghanistan as he was not listed on the family's visa when they left.

Mr French with other staff at the school have come together and paid the almost $9000 in expenses for Ahmad's first university semester.

But they are appealing to the community for help, donations or even job opportunities for Ahmad so he can earn money to cover his tuition costs.

To help Ahmad, contact the school on 63363300.

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