June 21, 2013
Disturbing claims have emerged over the circumstances of an asylum seeker’s death at Sydney’s Villawood detention centre.
It is understood the 26-year-old Afghan man, Ali Ahmad Jafari, died of a heart attack.
Fellow detainees say guards were slow to come to his aid and it took more than an hour to call an ambulance.
Furthermore, refugee advocates say Mr Jafari, who was an Afghan Hazara, was only in detention because of a bureaucratic mistake.
On Thursday night, he became the 14th asylum seeker to die in Australia’s detention system in the past five years.
Ali Madadrazaie met Mr Jafari in detention about eight months ago and described him as “the greatest guy”.
He told the ABC’s PM program Mr Jafari’s room-mate raised the alarm after Mr Jafari returned from the gym and complained of pains in his chest.
“He went to call the officers, c’mon guys, this guy is in so much pain, c’mon do something for him, and they just said to him like, ‘oh, I think you guys are joking’,” he said.
“They just took four, five – more than five minutes… after then when the officers came [to] look at him, and they called the supervisor.
“The supervisor came then, they make sure after that they call the nurses. His pain was probably from 6pm, and [it was] 7:30 when he get to ambulance.”
Villawood detainees found out Mr Jafari had died in hospital when police arrived at the detention centre around 9pm on Thursday.
Police determined there were no suspicious circumstances and are now preparing a report for the coroner.
Jafari healthy, but concerned about his future
Mr Madadrazaie and refugee advocates who knew Mr Jafari say he had appeared fit and healthy, though anguished about his position in detention.
But, according to Mr Madadrazaie, he had problems sleeping and took heavy doses of sleeping tablets.
His pain was probably from 6pm, and [it was] 7:30 when he get to ambulance.Ali Madadrazaie, one of Ahmad Jafari’s friends
“He was in the gym for 15-20 minutes, every day he always doing gym like 15-20 minutes to get a bit tired to go to bed, get sleep, cause he couldn’t get sleep and he was just using sleeping tablets all the time,” he told PM.
Others say the stress of his predicament contributed to his fate.
Ahsan Ali Khan is also Hazara and now lives in Sydney on a protection visa. He was to welcome Mr Jafari into his family as a brother-in-law.
Mr Khan says the young man was fit, but the system took its toll.
“Apparently he was always happy but he was sort of person he always take all the stress into himself, tried not to appear the stress to another person,” he told the ABC’s Lateline program.
“And I am sure the stress is only reason that killed him.”
Refugee advocates argue Mr Jafari should not even have been in detention.
They say he spent periods of his life fleeing danger.
His mother took him and his siblings to Quetta in Pakistan when he was 10 after his father was suspected to have been killed by the Taliban.
He later sought asylum in the UK but was deported back to Afghanistan in 2009, apparently because his grounds for protection were deemed to be insufficient.
Then he fled to Australia and arrived on Christmas Island in 2010, saying he had been beaten by the Taliban.
His claim for asylum was rejected and he appealed the decision.
He had spent most of the past three years in detention. According to refugee advocates, the Immigration Department allowed Mr Jafari to live in the community in February 2012.
But seven months later he was detained again at Villawood.
‘The process he had been through was flawed’
Ian Rintoul, spokesman for the Refugee Action Coalition, told PM that was based on a bureaucratic mistake.
“He was brought back into detention in September 2012, supposedly because of a conviction for some offence in Britain,” he said.
“But that turned out to be false and he got a police clearance in May this year, but Immigration certainly hadn’t acted on that clearance.”
Another supporter also criticised the department’s handling of Mr Jafari’s asylum claim. Graeme Swincer was a regular visitor and saw the young man on the day he died.
“The process that he had been through I believe was a very flawed process and it is for many others. And politically dominated process. And that it denied him recognition as a refugee,” he told Lateline.
Mr Swincer said a British police certificate shows the department was wrong.
“Someone in authority should have immediately apologised and said, ‘sorry, we got it wrong’,” he said.
“Here is the evidence – the police in the UK have done a thorough investigation and they find absolutely no trace of any criminal connections.”
Mr Jafari’s relatives are now in mourning.
Mr Khan told Lateline: “Taliban attitudes were easy to cope with because they just shot you straight in the head and nothing else. Everything is gone.
“But Australia’s immigration system keep torturing you day and night.”
The ABC asked the Immigration Department to respond to the claims about Mr Jafari’s death and detention, but it declined.
The department is providing counselling for Hazara detainees at Villawood.