CLOSE CALL: Inspiringly honest Gympie and Biloela refugee
CLOSE CALL: Inspiringly honest Gympie and Biloela refugee "Honest Dollah” almost lost it all. Patrick Woods

Refugee's reunion with family to hellish near-disaster

THE gently spoken refugee whose simple integrity touched hearts across Queensland and helped change Australia's asylum seeker debate, almost did not survive a long-awaited family reunion.

The former Gympie meat worker, now living in Biloela, has only one name, Dollah (or Mr Dollah on official documents).

His family members, not accepted in Australia as refugees even though Dollah is, need his Australian income for their survival and safety in Bangladesh.

Without it they face being returned to Myanmar, where his people are widely seen as the most oppressed in the world.

Dollah earned the nickname "Honest Dollah" when The Gympie Times told his story, in print and on social media nearly three years ago.


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When he found $400 in the street, honesty won out over desperation and he handed it in to police, telling them he did not want to keep it, even if it was unclaimed.

He did not want anything he had not worked for.

Supporter Deborah Rays said Dollah could not describe his emotions when he held his wife for the first time in years and hugged the daughter he had only known via cellphone on Skype.

She said the generosity of Gympie people in particular had enabled the trip. "We more or less forced him to accept our help," she said.

"Every penny of the flights was paid for by the wonderful people of Gympie and around Australia, who rewarded his honesty eightfold, more than two years ago."

He has kept a copy of the (Gympie Times) front page newspaper article in his suitcase these last two years and showed it to his family and everyone who came to see him.

But the fragile family lifeline nearly snapped on January 7, when an airline official refused to recognise Dollah's papers and let him board his flight back.

As his visa began to expire, Australian consular officials offered little help.

If the visa expired, Dollah could have faced deportation back to dangerous Myanmar, and without his income, so would his family. 

He travelled home - the length of Bangladesh - to get money for a lawyer, while Australian supporters crashed the Etihad Airlines website, vouching for him.

Finally on Thursday, with only hours left, the Australian High Commission told the airline, which has since apologised, that Dollah had the paperwork and asked it to help him return.

He landed in Brisbane on Sunday, again unable to express his feelings.

He hopes he still has a job after delays that almost cost him everything.