The Age
'I am not going back ... only death there'

By ANDREW DARBY

Wednesday 12 April 2000


HOBART - Akif Lutfiu hustled along a Hobart suburban street and disappeared last night; not just another teenager in sports shirt and baseball cap, but a Kosovar on the run in the land he had hoped would be home.

"I will never give myself up," the 19-year-old said. "If my body is in Kosovo, my heart in Tasmania will be. It is my choice to live, or to kill myself."

An orphan of the Balkans, who tells of vain attempts to find a home in six European countries, Akif was convinced that at last he had a sanctuary in Australia.

The only Kosovar absconder in Tasmania, Akif relies on friends for food, clothes and shelter.

"I'm so sorry I broke the rules," he said. "But they must know how I feel."

Akif has left the small country home at Colebrook outside Hobart where he lived since the closure of the Brighton Haven Centre in November. He was taken in by a haven bus driver, Mr Colin Parramore.

"It was like being born again," Akif said. He had arrived in Australia after a harrowing flight from Kosovo. Hailing from the village of Honidilit, outside Pristina, his parents died six and four years ago. "Then I think I am alone, no one cares for me."

Harassed by Serbian police, he took flight to Italy where he survived for six months as an illegal alien before being deported to Kosovo. He tried Macedonia, Czechoslovakia, Greece and Turkey before going back to Kosovo again because he said he wanted to become a KLA soldier and fight for freedom.

On March 3, 1999, he was dragged from a cousin's house by Serbian police, and sent to the Pristina train station. His money and jewellery were taken by the police and he milled among thousands of other people.

"I had a three-and-a-half-day-old baby die in my arms that day," he choked.

Taken to the border, Akif made it to the refugee camp and, after a difficult month, flew to Australia.

"I was 52 kilograms when I arrived. Now I am 70 kilograms," he said. "I just want to go back to the future, not to the past ... I said when I got over the border, I am not going back to Kosovo. Only death there."



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