Category Archives: Detention Centers

Asylum seeker children on Nauru abused, sexually harassed at school: former teacher

January 08, 2016 | smh

A five-year-old asylum seeker was urinated on by a group of Nauruan boys and asylum seeker girls have been sexually harassed at school, a former teacher says, saying many parents are too scared to send their children to school in 2016.

The claims are backed by asylum seeker children who report that Nauruan students threaten them with knives and teachers routinely swear at them. One Iranian boy reported his female Nauruan classmates offered sex for money.

I will not go to school because… the education is really bad, the teachers swear at us and the students hate us

In one alarming allegation, outlined in an official incident report sighted by Fairfax Media, a group of children were hit with a wooden ruler for being late to an exam.

The Nauru detention centre, as pictured in 2012.The Nauru detention centre, as pictured in 2012. Photo: Angela Wylie


It has been six months since the Australian government closed the detention centre school and forced child asylum seekers into Nauruan schools, where classes are taught in the Nauruan language and teachers are frequently absent.

A former teacher contracted by the Australian government to teach at the detention centre said that since the change, bullying by students and teachers had become rife, teacher training was poor and the special education needs of asylum seeker and refugee children were not being met.

It meant school attendance among about 70 children languishing at Nauru was low, and not expected to improve this year.

The Badawi family, including eldest sons Ahmed (left) and Mohammad (second from right).The Badawi family, including eldest sons Ahmed (left) and Mohammad (second from right). Photo: Supplied


“A lot of the Rohingyan girls stopped going because they were constantly being sexually harassed. These are girls that wear hijabs,” said the teacher, who remains in close contact with asylum seekers and refugees on the island.

“One little five-year-old boy was surrounded by Nauruan kids and they all urinated on him. There were no consequences, that kind of behaviour was tacitly condoned – that’s why [parents] pulled their kids out. Because they felt their kids weren’t protected or safe.”

Iranian Mohammad Badawi, 14, who has been in detention for more than two years, said he wanted an education but did not attend school because it was “dangerous”.

Ahmed and Ali Altabarawi. Their mother did not wish to be identified.

Ahmed and Ali Altabarawi. Their mother did not wish to be identified. Photo: Supplied

“I will not go to school because … the education is really bad, the teachers swear at us and the students hate us,” he said in a recording made this week, obtained by Fairfax Media.

In a separate recording made in October last year, Mohammad said he stopped going to school after female students offered him sex.

“One day the Nauruan girls come and told me bad things, like one-dollar-one-hour [for sex]. When I told [a teacher] the [teacher] say ‘why didn’t you go with them?’,” he said.

Other students “bring knives … and they scare us”.

Mohammad said security guards at the detention centre had also threatened to hurt him outside the facility, and he was reluctant to leave to attend school.

A young asylum seeker from Iraq, Ahmed Altabarawi, said he did not feel safe outside the detention centre and did not attend school.

“Outside the camp is not good, people are not good guys, they fight … and many dogs bite people,” he said in a recording also made in October.

“I don’t go to school – school is bad. All the guys fight the Arabic people.”

An incident report dated April 2014, sighted by Fairfax Media, details how four asylum seeker children at Nauru College were attacked by a teacher for being late to a maths test.

The report was made to Transfield Services, the Australian government contractor that runs the detention centre that has since changed its name to Broadspectrum.

The students apologised for being late and said they had been getting water. A teacher “proceeded to hit them with a wooden ruler on the shoulders”, the report said, adding two of the children began crying and the beating left red marks.

A spokesman for the Department of Immigration and Border Protection said school governance arrangements were a matter for the Nauruan government and it did not have enough information to comment on the alleged incidents.

The Nauruan government did not respond to request for comment.

A Broadspectrum spokesman said it was not responsible for education services in the Nauruan community.




Filed under Detention Centers, PNG/Pacific Solution, Torturing and Health Issues

Doctors step up fight to free children in immigration detention, citing mental and physical health concerns

October 30, 2015 | ABC News

Doctors in Melbourne rallied against holding children in detention earlier this month

Doctors in Melbourne rallied against holding children in detention earlier this month

Australia’s medical community is increasing pressure on the Federal Government to remove children from immigration detention, as more doctors come forward citing significant mental health concerns.

Paediatricians and other health workers are due to gather in Darwin, Adelaide and Sydney today to call on the Turnbull Government to remove all children and their families from immigration detention.

Paediatrician Joshua Francis told the ABC that it was clear that detention was harmful to children and to their families.

Dr Francis said he had treated children living in detention, who had presented with “significant psychological problems and very real impacts on their development”.

“We’re trying to deal with them on a situation here these children are living essentially in jail like environments in detention centres,” he said.

“It’s heartbreaking for me, not just as a paediatrician, but also as a father.”

Dr Francis said he would personally treat the issue on a case-by-case basis, but did not rule out refusing to discharge patients back into immigration detention.

Comment has been sought from Immigration Minister Peter Dutton.

The action follows that taken by Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital earlier this month, when almost 1,000 doctors, nurses and clinical support staff called on the Government to remove children from detention.

The hospital did not deny reports that they were refusing to discharge children in detention, saying it was a matter for “serious discussion” on a case-by-case basis.

The announcement coincides with a joint statement from maternal health groups, highlighting concerns for breastfeeding mothers in immigration detention.

Eight organisations, including the Australian Breastfeeding Organisation, said asylum seeker mothers needed appropriate support to continue breastfeeding including ensuring that mother and child are kept together if one needs medical treatment.


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The death of Khodayar Amini

October 24, 2015 | Abdul Hekmat for the saturday paper

In the three years before his suicide, Hazara asylum seeker Khodayar Amini says he was twice assaulted by police and was the victim of continual harassment.

Khodayar Amini

Khodayar Amini

On Thursday night, October 15, Khodayar Amini was preparing to cook for his five roommates in a suburb of Western Sydney. The phone rang, and he listened to his friend on the other end of the line. Australian Border Force had just raided his old address, about 10 kilometres away. Six officers had blocked the doors and windows and searched every room, checking the identity of the four people inside. They said they were looking for Amini’s new address.

The news shook him. He had already provided the immigration department with his new address but his encounters with Border Force made him nervous. Fearing that immigration officers would come and take him back to detention, the Hazara asylum seeker walked out into the night, leaving his belongings behind. “I don’t have other option. I have to run. I don’t want to go back in detention centre. I have suffered a lot there,” he told his friend. “They killed my best friend, Nasim Najafi.”

Amini fled the state, reaching Dandenong in south-east Melbourne, where he hid out in nearby bushland. Within three days he would be dead. He made a final phone call to two refugee advocates and while talking to them set himself alight. When police found his body, it was in a circle of scorched earth the size of a small room. He was 30.

The day before he died Amini had written in Farsi to one of the refugee advocates, Michelle Bui. Again he mentioned his friend Mohammad Nasim Najafi, who died in the Yongah Hill Immigration Detention Centre outside Perth in July, and two others who had committed suicide. Amini had shared a room with Najafi at Yongah Hill.

“I, Khodayar Amini, write the following few sentences with my blood for those apathetic so called human beings,” he wrote. “Yes they did this to me, with slogans of humanity, sentenced me to death. My crime was that I was a refugee. They tortured me for 37 months and during all these times they treated me in the most cruel and inhumane way. They violated my basic human right and took away my human dignity with their false and so called humane slogans. They killed me as well as many of my friends such as: Nasim Najafi, Reza Rezayee and Ahmad Ali Jaffari. They were my friends and their crime was that they had sought asylum in Australia.

“I write this statement with my blood for those who call themselves human beings, I ask you to stand up for the rights of refugees and stop people being killed just because they have become refugees. Humanity is not a slogan; every human being has the right to live. Living shouldn’t be a crime anymore. Red Cross, Immigration and the Police killed me with their slogans of humanity and cruel treatments.”

Feared for his life

Khodayar Amini made the journey to Australia by boat in September 2012. He was one of 86 asylum seekers on a tiny vessel whose engine quit working, and was rescued by the navy after hours floundering in the ocean. Thirty-one of the asylum seekers were taken to Nauru but Amini was taken to Christmas Island and then to a detention centre in Darwin. After five months, he was released into the community on a bridging visa without rights to work, travel or study. The Red Cross was put in charge of his care.

The story Amini tells from here is one of confusion and mistreatment. Twice, he says, he was beaten by police officers. Once so badly that the pain of his injuries persisted for two years. He says he was harassed by police and immigration officials. In early 2014, he was returned to detention for 11 months after an argument with the Department of Transport, Travel and Motoring in South Australia over a small licence fee refund, but was released after a court found him innocent of misconduct. The uncertainty of his visa, the fear of being deported back to Afghanistan, wore away at his mental health. He felt unrepresented and helpless. He became convinced he would die.

“Asylum seekers might be in the community but it’s virtually impossible to recover and to feel safe,” says Louise Newman, a professor of psychiatry at Monash University. “When people have the ongoing fear – whether it’s fear of being sent home or fear of being re-detained and lack of certainty about their future – their trauma persists. They don’t know what awaits them. And they become fearful every day, and it could affect their daily life, like they can’t eat or they can’t sleep. And they become agitated. People in that state are much afraid. They feel that they have no escape from the things that are tormenting them.”

She continues: “One of the most appalling things about the Australian government response to the needs of asylum seekers is that it allows this to happen. We allow it to happen and I am saying it quite strongly: that we don’t do anything to prevent it, which is preventable.”

In the last two months of his life, Amini started writing accounts of his treatment. The notes are appeals for justice, but they are laced with fear of the system to which he appeals.

“I am scared they plan to kill me with any wrong accusation,” he wrote in one. “I feel that the police come to my house at night and have a plan to kill me. I can’t sleep at night because I fear the police would kill me. I am extremely scared. I feel every moment they would kill me. What in 2013, they hit me so hard that still feel the pain from that time.”

His three-page handwritten letter was in a mixture of formal Farsi and Hazaragi dialect. At the end of the last page, he added a note.

“Translation of this will be hard because I don’t have adequate literacy and no one has helped me. If there is any place, the translator did not understand, call me and I will explain verbally.” He copied out his mobile number, and signed in a script that is earnest and hopeful: “Khodayar Amini.”

Untreated health issues

After being released from his second stint in detention, again on a bridging visa, Amini moved to Adelaide and then to Sydney. He set up in a house with other asylum seekers, including a friend who had travelled to Australia on the same boat as him.

His friends noted changes in his physical and mental health. He developed a persistent cough, for which he was hospitalised several times. The cough continued through the night and in order not to wake his roommates he would wrap himself with blankets and sit up all night in the lounge room.

It seems his medical condition was not properly diagnosed, nor his mental health. Three months ago, he called the Red Cross, which is contracted by the government to provide assistance to asylum seekers in the community. His insistence that he receive medical assistance got him into an argument over the phone with a staff member. The incident was referred to police and he was charged with making threatening comments.

“Four officers came to my home,” he wrote in an account of what followed. “They said that they were trying to search the house. They did not search and asked if you have a gun. I asked them ‘What you are saying?’ They pointed to their pistol and I said ‘No.’ They handcuffed me. They searched my body. They searched two times my shoes. Then they moved to police station. When we’re going down through elevator, I coughed and they said ‘alcohol?’ I said ‘no’. I told them that I was sick and it is not in my hands. They punched with fist and knee and took me inside police station. They tortured me. I was there for about 5 and 6 hours. They forced me to give interview.”

At time of press, New South Wales Police had not responded to Amini’s claims of brutality.

Amini’s solicitor, Besmellah Rezaee, said Amini had no intention to kill or threaten anybody. Amini was planning to appear in court on November 10 and believed he would win the case. “He told me words to the effect, ‘They kill with cotton’, and stated that he used this expression out of frustration and extreme depression and this was interpreted as having made a threat to kill,” Rezaee said. “He went on to say, ‘How on earth would a helpless and despairing person like me make such a threat against person of authority and power? I fled killing and am seeking protection to save my life – how can I intend to take someone else’s life?’ ” The expression “kill with cotton” is a Hazaragi phrase; it means to kill someone slowly.

“My heart ached”

The Saturday Paper has spoken to Amini’s friends and roommates, some of whom had known him for three years. They described him as “a good guy” with no threatening behaviours, and said he was getting along with everyone very well. He was deeply frustrated by the claims made against him.

Increasingly, Amini had become reserved with personal information. His roommates say he was guarded, staying mostly at home, not going out with them; he was awake all night and frequently listened to melancholic songs of Ahmad Zahir, a popular Afghan singer. He gave up his belief in God. “I don’t believe in God,” he said. “I think Tony Abbot [is] God for refugee. [He] killed my best friend. Why? Why?”

Before leaving Sydney for Dandenong, Amini went to a Hazara community centre in Sydney asking for advice and help. “Can you stop the immigration for taking me back to detention centre?” Amini asked Abdul Alizada, from the Kateb Hazara Association. “They were behind my door, wanting to take to detention centre. I am too scared to go there. I don’t want to be deported back to Afghanistan.”

Alizada told him that it was beyond his power to stop immigration but he could write a support letter stating that he was of good character. “I can’t stop immigration from taking you nor I can hide you,” Alizada said, “but I can support by writing a letter.” They talked for about 45 minutes. Alizada said he saw no sign of depression or distress and found Amini “very elaborate”.

On Monday, when Alizada learnt Amini had set himself on fire, he was devastated. “I have a bad feeling that I can’t express it in words,” he said, his voice quivering. “I failed to help him.”

His friends feel the same: “He was a very nice guy. My heart ached when I heard about him. I have not slept for few nights.”

Amini recently launched a complaint with the Australian Human Rights Commission against mistreatment by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection. A letter was sent to him on October 15, but it was already too late. “In order to progress your complaint,” it read, “please sign and return the Authority to Release Information and/or document form by Thursday October 22, 2015.”

What’s our crime?”

No one knows why Amini took his life. The notes he wrote in the last months of his life show a man persecuted by a system of uncertainty, terrified he would be deported, deeply mistrusting of authority. They show a man lost and uncertain where to find help.

“Are there rule of law, social justice and human dignity in this country?” he wrote in one. “If there is, why your behaviour is in contradictory to human rights? In 2014, the Adelaide police mistreated me because I was asking for the refund of my $32 [from Transport, Travel and Motoring]. Then, I was harassed, incarcerated, taken to court, tortured for 11 months inside immigration detention centre. What was my crime? How your treatment is different from the treatment of the Taliban and Daesh? For three years, you have tortured me in every way. What do you want from us? What’s our crime? In your view, we are not human beings.”

When he left the house for the last time, he told no one where he was going. A day before his self-immolation, he called his friends in the house and told them that he was still looking for a place but had found none. They heard nothing more.

On the night Amini left home, he sent Michelle Bui a text message: “Hi Michelle, are you free now. I want to talk to you. Very important.”

Bui spoke to Amini on the phone and he told her he was in a car hiding in the bush but did not disclose his whereabouts. He said he feared going back to detention.

On Saturday, Amini switched off his mobile phone. “The police and immigration check my mobile phone,” he said. “I think it’s off better.”

On Sunday morning, about 10am, Bui received a text message from Amini. It read: “I want to cut my life.” Bui tried to dissuade him and enlisted the help of another advocate from the Refugee Rights Action Network, Sarah Ross. Ross had experience in suicide prevention.

Bui and Ross called Amini on Facebook video chat. Amini showed them a petrol container. He poured it over himself. Again, they heard him repeating that immigration was trying to kill him. “We pleaded with him not to do it,” Bui said. “We then heard the lighter flick and saw flames. Sarah threw the phone on the ground so we didn’t see it. Obviously at this stage we both got very emotional. We heard the flames but we didn’t hear any screams or sounds from him.”

It was Monday before his friends heard of the death. Amini’s roommates were awake for nights, mourning him. They missed him, and his cooking. “He was a good cook.” A friend who used to sleep in the same bedroom as Amini said: “I did not believe he died when I heard about him on the news. All night, I lay in my bed in one side and tilted my head towards his empty bed, hoping he would walk every minute to sleep on his bed as usual. But he never did.”


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How Mohammad Nasim Najafi died in a detention centre

August 08, 2015 | the saturday paper

Two weeks after being beaten and placed in a solitary cell, asylum seeker Mohammad Nasim Najafi was dead. These were his last days.

Mohammad Nasim Najafi: Supplied

It started with a night attack. Three weeks ago, a group of criminals broke into Mohammad Nasim Najafi’s room in the Yongah Hill Immigration Detention Centre outside Perth, scattering his belongings and beating him.

Overcrowded prisons mean half of the detainees at the centre are convicted criminals rather than asylum seekers. Fearing for his life, Nasim managed to escape the attackers and took shelter in an office with Serco employees, the contractors who run the detention centre.

As yet, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection has given no reason for what happened next. After being beaten by the gang – one of a number that jostle for control in Yongah – Nasim was placed in a solitary cell. His room was two metres by two metres and had no toilet. The card that allowed him to enter the main areas of the detention centre, including the gym and recreational facilities, was blocked.

By Friday, July 31, Nasim was dead. As his body was carried from the centre, loaded into an ambulance under a white sheet, fellow detainees chanted in volleys of Arabic and English: “He did not kill himself, the immigration killed him.”

The official response from the department of immigration is brief. It sheds no light on how the healthy 27-year-old might have died: “The department can confirm that a male detainee died at the Yongah Hill Immigration Detention Centre on Friday 31 July 2015. There was no indication of suicide or suspicious circumstances. The WA Police attended the centre and is conducting an investigation as per normal practices in such cases.”

This week, The Saturday Paper spoke to a number of detainees who were close to Nasim, including the last person he spoke to. The picture they paint is of a man denied proper medical care, an epileptic who died in detention because he was not properly monitored, who requested medical attention but was given only Panadol and sleeping tablets.

Nasim’s mother still lives in Hotqool, in Afghanistan. Ten years ago, her husband was killed by the Taliban. Now, her eldest son is dead. She hasn’t slept in the week since he died. She has stopped eating. When The Saturday Paper calls, her words are few and desperate. “Who killed my son? How did he die?” Her voice is pleading and full of sobs. Eventually, she drops the phone and all that can be heard are her cries. “I want my son back.”

Medical care lacking

After being moved into a solitary room, Nasim plunged into despair. He feared being assaulted again, and slept all day so he could remain awake at night. A fellow detainee recalled him saying, “Why was I moved and locked away here and not those that attacked me?”

Shahid, who did not want to use his real name, had known Nasim for almost three years in Yongah detention centre. They were together much of the time, including the night before Nasim died. “We spent time together on Thursday until 11pm,” he says. “I went to sleep and he went to his room.”

The same night, Nasim spoke with his fiancée in India. “He called me on Thursday night, I think. I am confused and mix up the days now,” she says through tears. “We spoke about half an hour. He did not tell me anything about the camp. He thought I might be upset. Just told me that he was tired of being away from each other and tired of the camp. He said that he will get out another month and then see me.”

Earlier, he wrote her a brief post on Facebook: “I should confess that unkind life has created so much distance between us. I have been thrown into a cage that I can’t get out. Tonight, the starless roof of this cage is so low on me. I am left what to write about.”

Detainees at Yongah say medical care inside detention is very poor. About 600 detainees have access to only one doctor. The medical centre is closed after 5pm. If detainees want to see a doctor, they have to fill a request form, and then wait at least four days. “When I go to doctor and tell him that I am sick, they don’t listen to us or believe us,” Shahid says. “Even when they see me vomit as if I’m dying, they say, ‘We can’t cure it. When you get out from detention, you feel better.’ ” Another detainee, from Iraq, said: “I go doctor. Me sick. Panadol. Water.”

The immigration department says asylum seekers in the centre have “access to appropriate healthcare and medical treatment at a standard at least comparable to the healthcare available to the Australian community generally”.

Two weeks ago, Nasim saw the centre’s doctor. “They just gave him Panadol and sleeping pills,” a detainee says. “He was left alone there. If there was another person with him, he would shake him, rub his body to circulate blood.”

The department would not confirm whether or not it was aware of Nasim’s epilepsy, although fellow detainees say Nasim was taking medication for the condition and it had been brought to Serco’s attention many times. Nasim told Shahid he had developed the disease while in detention. His family and fiancée said he had no health problems or heart diseases. Shahid said Nasim had collapsed before, while the pair were in the centre’s computer room. “I leaned on his back to stop him from falling,” says Shahid. “I called Serco. In the meantime, another person came and rubbed his palm and chest. It took about four minutes [for Nasim] to come to consciousness again.”

Detainees say Nasim was not properly checked while in his solitary cell, and that this was not appropriate for a person with a pre-existing medical condition. “If a person is dead in his bed, they would not know because they think he is asleep,” a detainee says. “The only time they would wake up a person would be to get his signature for a doctor’s appointment or if he has not eaten his delivered food. I believe they realised far too late that Nasim was dead.”

Inside Yongah

Yongah Hill detention centre is located about 90 kilometres north-east of Perth and was built to house asylum seekers. The sprawling demountables now house 600 detainees, the majority of whom are convicted criminals and visa overstayers awaiting deportation. Nasim’s roommate, before he was moved to another compound, was an American convicted of attempted murder while in Australia. After serving his jail sentence, he was transferred to Yongah, where for the past five months he has been awaiting deportation.

Asylum seekers detained at the centre report crimes and gang violence, as well as a spate of random beatings. In February this year, the detention centre guards were menaced by gangs and had bottles and other objects thrown at them. A security guard quoted by the ABC said, “We are not trained to be looking after violent offenders … we are supposed to be looking after detainees.”

Five months ago, an asylum seeker was attacked by a gang and hospitalised. “We are really scared of them because they have nothing to lose and get themselves to be deported,” an Afghan asylum seeker tellsThe Saturday Paper. “We escape our country to be safe. They mix us with criminals. These people don’t care about anything because they will be deported anyway.”

Most of the asylum seekers at Yongah detention centre are long-term detainees. Some are held for security reasons, which are not explained to them. Some have broken their bridging visa conditions, by working for instance. Many respond to their long detention by shutting down emotionally and withdrawing, shunning even the most meagre conversation.

An asylum seeker tells The Saturday Paper that many detainees suffer insomnia and are taking sleeping pills. Some have began calling random names or talking to themselves. “If a dog is being put this cage for this long, he or she would go crazy let alone a human being,” the asylum seeker says.

Nasim was an ethnic Hazara, a persecuted minority in Afghanistan. His father, Nadir Najafi, a shopkeeper, was killed by the Taliban in 2004. So was his uncle, Sadiq. Najafi’s home town, Hotqool, borders with the Pashtun and Taliban-dominated area Rasna. The kidnapping and murder of Hazaras – including those returned from Australia, as reported by The Saturday Paper last year – is common.

The security for Hazaras has worsened in recent years, particularly in the area where Nasim lived. Three years ago, he fled Afghanistan and arrived in Australia by boat. He had been locked up at Yongah Hill detention centre since 2012. The department of immigration would not say why Nasim was not offered a bridging visa or community detention, but said “certain aspects of this individual’s case rendered him ineligible” for these programs.

According to a department spokesperson, “The safety and security of the Australian community is of paramount importance to the department. Consequently, individuals with suspected histories of criminal behaviour, serious incidents in detention or who are of interest to security agencies will not be released from detention until such concerns are alleviated.”

The Saturday Paper contacted Nasim’s family, Hazara elders in his home town, his school, and the local district governor. All were shocked by these allegations. Nasim had no criminal record.

Says Jaghori’s district governor, Zafar Sharif: “I know his father and uncle were martyred by the Taliban. We and police do not have a criminal record against [Nasim]. He was a very active person in the area in cultural activities. I felt very sad to hear he died in the camp.”

Mamor Karim, the school principal of the Ustad Lycee Sharifi, says: “I know Nasim, he was my student. He was very intelligent and a well-behaved boy. I haven’t seen or heard any wrongdoings about him. It’s just total disbelief to me.’

Inmates at Yongah detention centre described Nasim as a law-abiding person. His American former roommate said: “He was a very friendly person, he was helping everyone … My mother is very sad too because he spoke to her on the phone and she sent some clothes from America.”

Victoria Martin-Iverson, of Refugee Rights Action Network WA, has demanded a full inquest. “It’s after all a death in custody,” she says. “We don’t know exactly what happened to him. Epilepsy normally doesn’t kill people. There must be another cause and it should be fully investigated.”

As well as his mother and fiancée, Nasim leaves behind two sisters and one brother, all children. He spoke to his mother a week before his death. All he said was, “I miss you.”



Filed under Detention Centers, Hazara Persecution, Torturing and Health Issues

Asylum seeker dies in Yongah Hill immigration detention centre in WA

August 01, 2015 | smh

A young asylum seeker has died at Yongah Hill Immigration Detention Centre.

An Afghan asylum seeker has died at a West Australian detention centre from a suspected heart attack amid claims he had been denied medical treatment for two weeks.
Refugee advocates say that the Yongah Hill Detention Centre, north-east of Perth, is in lockdown and the riot squad has been mobilised after fellow detainees were told about the death of the Afghan man, believed to be Mohammad Nasim Najafi.

But a spokesperson for the Department of Immigration and Protection said there was no unrest at the centre. The spokesperson confirmed a male detainee had died, saying there was no indication of suicide or suspicious circumstances and an investigation was underway.
“The WA Police attended the centre and will now conduct an investigation as per normal practices,” the spokeswoman said. “The department extends our deepest sympathy to the individual’s family and friends.”

The spokesperson said detainees have access to appropriate health care and medical treatment “at a standard at least comparable to the health care available to the Australian community generally”.
Fellow detainees said the man was sick and had been complaining about a heart condition for the past two weeks. “They did not let him see a doctor … only gave him Panadol,” said a detainee.
“He said he couldn’t breathe … they let him die. Everyone is sad, very sad,” he said.
Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said the circumstances surrounding the death warranted a full investigation. “It is time for a thorough review of the health and welfare services across the detention network.”
It is understood that Mr Najafi, who was in his mid-20s, arrived at Christmas Island four years ago by boat after his family was killed by the Taliban.
A detainee who knew him said he had suffered mental health problems after the death of his father. The detainee said the only treatment offered for mental health at the centre was medication that made them “sleep all the time”.
Ian Rintoul from the Refugee Action Coalition said the death has highlighted the neglect and lack of medical care in the detention centre.
“There is no excuse for keeping someone in detention for three years,” Mr Rintoul said. “If he had been in the community, he would more likely still be alive.”


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More than 200 asylum seekers on Manus Island join legal challenge to contest detention

June 23, 2015 | ABC News

The asylum seekers will argue that their ongoing detention breaches the right to liberty.

The asylum seekers will argue that their ongoing detention breaches the right to liberty.

Almost a third of the asylum seekers at the Australian-run immigration centre on Manus Island are challenging their detention, after 277 of them were added to an ongoing case in Papua New Guinea.

The case will argue the detention of asylum seekers on Manus Island has breached at least 8 parts of PNG’s constitution, including the right to liberty, freedom of movement, information about detention and access to a lawyer.

Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia approved a move to join 277 new applicants to the original 25 asylum seekers who started the case.

“I will be travelling to Manus [Island] and will spend 21 days to collate the 277 signed affidavits for filing by the first week of August,” Ben Lomai, the lawyer representing the asylum seekers, said.

The legal action began when 25 asylum seekers were jailed without charge during unrest in January and were able to make contact with a lawyer while in a provincial prison.

The case has been filed against PNG’s chief migration officer, immigration minister and the state.

Australia’s role in the case remains unclear.

“We are aware of the case being run by Mr Lomai in PNG on behalf of a number of detainees in Manus … [but] the Commonwealth has not been served documents in relation to this case,” a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesman said.

However, Mr Lomai said he has served documents on the Commonwealth of Australia via diplomatic channels that were suggested by the Australian High Commission.

“If the court finds in favour of the applicants there are serious implications for the Commonwealth of Australia, because I will be asking for [the asylum seekers] to be released to the first port of entry, which is Australia,” he said.

The case is one of numerous legal challenges to the Australian-funded processing of asylum seekers on PNG’s remote Manus Island.

Former PNG opposition leader Belden Namah launched a Supreme Court challenge last year, which has since become bogged down in the court system.

Australia has funded PNG’s legal challenge against Mr Namah’s case.

In March, PNG judge David Cannings launched a Human Rights Inquiry into conditions for asylum seekers,allowing rare media access to the detention centre.

The PNG government stayed that case, citing conflict of interest, and Justice Cannings promptly launched a second human rights inquiry into whether asylum seekers’ rights were being denied.

Separately, asylum seekers are undertaking a class action in the Victorian Supreme Court, suing the Commonwealth for negligence relating to the standard of care provided at the detention centre and for psychological injury caused by conditions.

There were 943 asylum seekers in detention on Manus Island — according to Australian immigration figures from May 31 — and approximately 40 refugees at a transit centre awaiting permanent resettlement.

Some of the men have been on the island for almost two years and the PNG government is yet to form a policy on how to resettle them in other parts of the nation.


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Tony Abbott fails another leadership test

February 13, 2015 | the age editorial

Tears behind bars ... The saddening sketches of children in detention.Tears behind bars … The saddening sketches of children in detention. Photo: Supplied

Prime Minister Tony Abbott yesterday attacked the Australian Human Rights Commission over its report into children in immigration detention, saying “the Human Rights Commission should be ashamed of itself”. No, Mr Abbott – it is you and your government that should be ashamed. By seeking to politicise the report and its findings, by seeking to demonise commission president Gillian Triggs, the government compounds its own failures and those of preceding governments. It has tried to shift attention to anyone and everyone, while accepting no responsibility, which only magnifies its own shameful behaviour.

There is no rationale for holding children in detention. Mr Abbott should have seen the report as a call to act – indeed, as an opportunity to do the right thing – not an opportunity to obfuscate and point fingers. The only humane response should have been: Children are suffering – what will we do about it?

The Triggs report was delivered to the government in November. Mr Abbott and his colleagues have had months to formulate an effective, dignified response. Instead, they sat on it until the last possible moment and then followed its release on Wednesday night with a remorseless attack – on the report, its author and the former Labor government.

In some respects the report could have been regarded as being supportive of current government policy. It says Operation Sovereign Borders “has prevented asylum seekers from reaching our shores. The consequence is that it has become possible to focus on those  … asylum seekers who are currently detained in Australia and on Nauru and Manus Island.”

It also details how the government has succeeded in at least reducing the number of children held in detention.

Mr Abbott’s response to this report indicates that, despite his claims to the contrary following Monday’s leadership vote in the Liberal party room, nothing has changed in his approach to governing. His instinct is to attack, instead of  taking a position based on decency and dignity.

He and his former immigration minister, Scott Morrison, have seen this important inquiry as an opportunity to deliberately and methodically disparage and undermine the Human Rights Commission.

That is shameful.

In May 2013, with Julia Gillard as prime minister, The Age wrote: “For as long as children remain locked up, Australian values remain sullied. This heinous practice is contrary to who we are.” There is a continuing humanitarian crisis taking place under the authority of the Australian government – according to its own monthly immigration detention report from January 31, 2015, there were 211 children under some form of mainland detention, plus 119 in offshore detention behind fences in Nauru, with no pathway to protection or settlement.

The Human Rights Commission inquiry that led to its report questioned both the former Labor immigration minister Chris Bowen, and Mr Morrison as the then minister. Both agreed on oath that holding children in detention did not deter asylum seekers or people smugglers.

No satisfactory rationale for the prolonged detention of children seeking asylum in Australia was offered.

The Abbott government has been handed an opportunity to act responsibly and with compassion. On behalf of all Australians, it should support the Human Rights Commission, acknowledge that the actions of successive governments have been shameful, and end the mandatory detention of children.


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