Category Archives: Torturing and Health Issues

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.

Source: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/asylum-seeker-children-on-nauru-abused-sexually-harassed-at-school-former-teacher-20160107-gm1mdh.html

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A Refugee Committed Suicide At Brisbane Airport An Barely Anyone Noticed

November 02, 2015 | Buzfeed Australia

Reza Alizadeh. Supplied

At around 4 a.m. last Tuesday morning, Reza Alizadeh, a 26-year-old Iranian man who had been living in Australia on a bridging visa since 2013, walked to the entrance of Brisbane International Airport.

He had been troubled for some time. Suffering from depression, he fled the Iranian city of Ahwaz by boat in 2013 and headed for Australia. He spent around three months in various detention centres before he was released into the community on a bridging visa and moved to Melbourne.

It was at this point that his already fragile mental health rapidly declined. Two troubled years, dotted with incidents of self-harm, emotional breakdowns, paranoia, and suicidal thoughts finally ended, alone at Brisbane airport when AFP officers found him hanging from a bag strap attached to a railing at around 4 a.m. on Tuesday morning.

How did it come to this? BuzzFeed News has spoken to Reza’s friends who tried desperately to get him the help he needed, as well as medical professionals who say Australia’s immigration system is giving birth to a crisis in the refugee community.

“At the end he got worse and worse. On a number of occasions he tried to harm himself and he had scars all over his body, and none of the authorities cared,” a friend of Reza’s says.

This is part of the new normal for Australia’s immigration system. For over a decade now – ever since former prime minister John Howard declared that “we will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come” – “boat people” have become a political football.

“We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come.” John Howard launching his successful election campaign in 2001. Den Lewins / AAPIMAGE

When Labor relaxed Australia’s border protection laws in 2007, a tide of refugees attempted to reach the country by boat. Tens of thousands were intercepted and put in detention centres to be processed.

Eventually the sea of humanity making its way to our shores became too much and in 2013 a new policy was formed: no one who tried to reach Australia by boat would be settled here.

As a result, there are around 30,000 refugees currently living in Australia on bridging visas, which allow a person to live – with conditions – in the community while their refugee claims are being processed or until a more permanent home can be found for them.

The bridging visas have an upside: they’ve helped to get many refugees out of detention and into the community, where they’ve got the freedom to form friendships and communities which in theory should make life in Australia a little easier.

But advocates say the visas leave refugees in a state of abject poverty. Asylum-seekers who arrived in Australia by boat on or after August 13 2012 and are granted bridging visas are not permitted to work, meaning many rely on charity just to survive.

Former prime minister Kevin Rudd announcing that anyone who attempted to reach Australia by boat would have no chance of being settled here. AAP

People on bridging visas have no right to family reunion and cannot leave the country. They are given access to temporary accommodation but are ultimately responsible for their own lodgings. In an emergency, asylum-seekers are given access to the Community Assistance Support program which helps people to meet their basic health and welfare needs. But first there has to be an emergency.

The system is deliberately and transparently punitive. The government’s stated objective is to deter asylum-seekers from ever wanting to come to Australia by boat.

It’s these conditions which have led to many asylum-seekers suffering from severe mental health issues, advocates say.

“We lock them up and drive them crazy, then we set them free and expect them to be OK,” says Pamela Curr from the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.

Zachary Steele is the professorial chair of trauma and mental health at St John of God Hospital and a professor of psychology at UNSW. He tells BuzzFeed News asylum-seekers and refugees are among the most vulnerable people in our society and need our protection.

“Every survey that’s been done shows that they do have a very high rate of exposure to torture and trauma backgrounds that places them in a very high risk category for mental health problems,” he says.

“The stresses of insecure residency and the post-migration difficulties associated with the restrictions of bridging visas create a harsh environment that in turn is associated with poorer mental health trajectories.”

For Reza, this manifested in severe paranoia, depression, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts. And while tragic, Reza’s story is not unique.

“We lock them up and drive them crazy, then we set them free and expect them to be OK.”

In February 2014 Rezene Mebrahta Engeda drowned himself in the Maribyrnong River upon notice of a failed asylum application.

In June 2014 a 29-year-old Sri Lankan man died as a result of self-immolation, suffering burns to 90% of his body. He had been living in community detention on a bridging visa awaiting the outcome of his refugee claim.

In March, Omid Ali Avaz, a 29-year-old Iranian man on a Humanitarian Stay (Temporary) visa, killed himself in Brisbane.

Earlier this month, Hazara man Khodayar Amini set himself alight while on a video call to two refugee workers.

Before his death, Khodayar reportedly told the refugee workers, “Red Cross killing me. Immigration killing me. I want to kill my life. I don’t have any option. They don’t give me chance. I can’t stay in detention centre.”

Khodayar Amini. Supplied.

One of the major problems, Pamela Curr says, is that many asylum-seekers suffering from mental health issues are afraid to reveal their troubles to the people who are supposed to help them.

“The asylum-seekers are really cursed. If they have an agency that’s looking after them and they go to that agency and say, ‘I’m feeling suicidal, I want to jump in front of a train, I can’t sleep, I’ve got voices in my head’ – all the marks of mental ill health – those agencies will notify the immigration department, and the next thing you know, the department will rock up and cart them off to detention. They’re in a real bind.”

Without any family in Australia, it was Reza’s friends who tried the hardest to get him help.

Reza took himself, or was taken to, at least three Melbourne hospitals or medical centres in the weeks before his death. Ten days before he died, Reza broke a mobile phone in half and attempted to slash his throat while in hospital. A short time later he was released to look after himself, friends say.

The hospitals contacted by BuzzFeed News were unable to comment, citing privacy concerns.

In Reza’s final weeks, friends say they contacted the immigration department, police, and Reza’s caseworker with AMES Australia, a government-contracted nonprofit which helps recently arrived refugees settle into Victoria.

A spokesperson for AMES told BuzzFeed News the organisation did all it could for Reza, but that his erratic behaviour in the period before his death made it very difficult to provide the care he needed:

“[Reza] was provided with the full range of services all of our asylum-seeker clients are afforded. As a person with a range of health issues he was given close case management and referred several times to healthcare providers.”

“It’s all black and white… on a number of occasions [Reza’s friend] has taken Reza to hospital, to police, to AMES, to his case worker, to immigration, and they basically said ‘he’s alright’.”

Shortly after Reza was released from the third hospital, he decided to fly to Brisbane. He felt this was the only place he was safe from the people he believed were following him. His friends helped him fly to Brisbane while informing anyone they could of their concerns for his wellbeing.

“He [Reza] got in touch with his cousin and he sent text messages that he was going to take his life. Then his cousin, on a number of occasions, contacted his case worker,” Reza’s friend says.

Melbourne police were informed of Reza’s situation, and Queensland police were subsequently informed.

It’s believed Queensland police officers contacted Reza after he arrived in Brisbane, meeting with him in a hotel room in Fortitude Valley to assess his mental health. After a conversation, Reza’s friends say, the officers left him alone, deciding he was not a danger to himself or others.

Following the meeting, Reza’s friend, also named Reza, says he contacted the department of immigration and AMES to warn them that Reza planned to end his life, but was told that nothing could be done.

“It’s all black and white… on a number of occasions [Reza’s friend] has taken Reza to hospital, to police, to AMES, to his case worker, to immigration, and they basically said ‘he’s alright’,” another friend says.

The two Rezas texted constantly over the weekend before final contact was made on Sunday evening. It’s not clear what happened between Sunday evening and Tuesday morning, but we may learn more when Queensland police hand over a report for the coroner.

It’s too late for Reza, but mental health experts say the system needs to be changed to look after people on temporary visas.

Reza in Melbourne before his death. Supplied.

“Your life is permanently on hold and you have a subjective fear that you may be returned to a situation where you fear for your wellbeing and the wellbeing of your family,” Prof Steele says.

“People do have to have their claims assessed and that does put enormous stress on them. There’s no way to solve that problem but there is a way to recognise it and to put a health and welfare framework around it that recognises that this is a vulnerable population.”

Michael Dudley, the chair of Suicide Prevention Australia, believes “torture” is not too strong a word for Australia’s current immigration system.

“The way in which the policy is giving rise to harm that the government and the department are aware of – it’s collateral damage of which they are fully informed. It’s a direct aim of the policy. It aims to cause suffering to make people leave the country.”

Dudley says the solution is at once complex and simple: time and money. He believes refugees have a sword of Damocles hanging over their head which could be resolved if more funding was dedicated to processing refugee claims as fast as possible.

“The UNHCR [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] needs proper funding by governments like Australia. We don’t actually have a system that is designed to do that. It’s not properly resourced,” he says.

“Mental health support could help people in these situations. Whatever support we can offer, whether mental or practical, in these dire situations, should be offered.”

Queensland police declined to comment for this story, saying it would be inappropriate as they prepare a report for the coroner.

The Department of Immigration declined several requests for comment, citing the Queensland police investigation.

Source: http://www.buzzfeed.com/robstott/a-refugees-public-suicide-and-the-system-that-let-him-down#.sqqNxEJkw

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Man dies at Brisbane airport

October 30, 2105 | brisbane times

Refugee advocates say an Iranian man endured months of depression before he died at Brisbane Airport.

Refugee advocates say an Iranian man endured months of depression before he died at Brisbane Airport. Photo: Michelle Smith

A young Iranian man took his own life at the Brisbane airport on Tuesday, after what refugee advocates believe was months of depression and despair.

Supporters told Fairfax Media the man, thought to be either 25 or 26 years old, had travelled to Brisbane recently, after his release from a Melbourne hospital.

They said he was met by police at the airport and placed in a hotel, which he later left, returning to the airport in the early hours of Tuesday morning, and suicided.

A Queensland Police spokeswoman confirmed officers attended a non-suspicious sudden death at the Brisbane Airport on Tuesday and a report was being prepared for the Coroner.

A spokeswoman for the Australian Federal Police said the Queensland Police Service were the lead agency on the investigation.

The Immigration department was contacted for comment late on Wednesday night, when Fairfax Media first learnt of the death.

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection.responded on Thursday: “This is a matter for Queensland Police please direct your enquiry to them.”

Refugee advocates in both Brisbane and Melbourne had heard of the death, claiming the man had been attempting to seek help for mental health issues when he was discharged from the Royal Melbourne Hospital last week.

Investigations are continuing

Source http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/man-dies-at-brisbane-airport-20151028-gklbig.html#ixzz3q31D47sR

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Losing the plot: the sad tale of refugee Abyan

October 23, 2015 | brisbane times

Illustration: Andrew Dyson

Illustration: Andrew Dyson

A young, vulnerable and traumatised woman who sought protection in Australia has been very badly let down.

One solitary question was asked in the national Parliament this week about an issue that goes to the heart of Australia’s self-image as the compassionate country of the fair go. It came from the Labor opposition, but could just as easily have been a Dorothy Dixer from a Coalition MP.

“Can the minister please provide the House with information on the government decisions taken in relation to the pregnant Somali asylum seeker who was recently transported between Australia and Nauru?” Richard Marles asked Immigration Minister Peter Dutton.

If the opposition, any opposition, has used the word “please” when pressing the government for information in question time, I, for one, am struggling to recall it.

Marles called her an asylum seeker, when in fact she is a refugee who has been found to have a genuine fear of persecution if returned to Somalia. He neglected to mention she was single, with a complicated medical history, and that she maintains the pregnancy is the result of being raped on July 18 after her release from detention on Nauru.

His question was open-ended, rather than focused on why it had taken so long to bring the woman to Australia after she requested an abortion (which is unlawful on Nauru), and why she was returned on a charter flight after just five days, at significant cost.

No wonder Dutton began his response by thanking Marles very much for the question, and “very much for the way he framed the question as well”.

Dutton then set out to counter the claims by lawyer George Newhouse​, that the woman known as Abyan (not her real name) had received totally inadequate treatment since the alleged rape, both on Nauru and during her short stay in Australia.

The minister told how she saw a primary health nurse on arrival in Brisbane on October 11 and how, in subsequent days, her situation was reviewed by a mental health nurse and a GP, usually with an interpreter present, before she said that she did not wish to proceed with the abortion and was returned to Nauru.

But something was lost amid the claim and counter-claim: a young, vulnerable and traumatised woman who sought protection in Australia has been very badly let down by the system, not once but at almost every turn.

What is left is a swag of unanswered questions that go to the heart of the arrangement between the Australian and Nauru governments: Why was Abyan reluctant to report the alleged assault to Nauruan police? What level of care did she receive after the pregnancy was confirmed on August 25, prompting her decision to seek a termination? Why did it take so long for her to be brought to Australia? Why were her only interactions with nurses and a GP (or GPs) in Australia?

The answer to the threshold question, Abyan has told supporters in Australia, is that she feared going to the Nauruan police, did not want anyone to know about the assault and only revealed it when the pregnancy was confirmed.

Her reticence is explained by the experience of a 23-year-old Iranian, whose shocking story was told on ABC TV’s Lateline this week and is a case study in worst practice when it comes to dealing with sexual assault.

The more troubling question is why Abyan was denied access to mental-health and other specialists to help her make an informed decision on the termination in Australia. Why just a GP and a mental-health nurse?
Abyan’s lawyer wanted her to be able to discuss all her options in terms of the termination, with the same level of care afforded to Australian women in similar situations. But Australian officials saw the question of options through a very different prism.
“Her option is to be afforded the treatment, which is what she sought,” is how Michael Pezzullo, the secretary of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, put it to a Senate committee. “There is no other option available for her in terms of any other basis upon which to stay in Australia.”

The context for this response was offered by Dutton a week earlier, when he declared: “The racket that’s been going on here is that people, at the margins, come to Australia from Nauru, the government’s then injuncted and we can’t send them back to Nauru – and there are over 200 people in that category.”

In Abyan’s case, lawyers did seek an injunction to delay her deportation, but it was all about giving her access to health professionals. It had nothing to do about her seeking to stay permanently in Australia. It was abandoned because she was already on a plane to Nauru.

Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young asked many of the right questions during the Senate committee hearing this week, including how Abyan was feeling after being returned to Nauru.

She was told that Abyan was “engaging well” and “in a positive way”, with support and health services on the island, and “talking of her future on Nauru”. This was not the message from Chris Kenny, the Australian journalist, who reported that Abyan was “agitated and distressed” when he knocked on her door and that she still wanted a termination, but no longer in Australia.

Hanson-Young has called on the government to appoint an independent advocate or guardian to represent the interests of Abyan and others in similar situations. It’s a good idea.

There is also a compelling case for asking Philip Moss, who investigated allegations of sexual assault within the processing centre on Nauru and reported in February, to examine how well his recommendations have been implemented.

John Brayley​, the highly regarded inaugural surgeon general of the Australian Border Force, should also be tasked with reviewing medical services on Nauru and for those in detention and in transit accommodation on Manus Island, including services to victims of sexual assault.

But the inescapable conclusion is that Abyan’s story is simply further evidence that the centres on Nauru and Manus are unsustainable, and that both continue to damage vulnerable people for no other purpose than to deter boat arrivals.

“I’m despairing of it, to be honest. I just think we’ve lost the plot,” says former Australian of the Year and eminent psychiatrist Patrick McGorry​, who believes the ascension of Malcolm Turnbull provides an opportunity for a better way.

Maybe it does, but the prospects are grim unless hard questions are asked and honest answers are given.

Source: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/comment/sad-tale-of-allegedly-raped-refugee-abyan-shows-we-have-lost-the-plot-20151023-gkgs19.html#ixzz3pU2PPw1W

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Hazara community shocked, angered at death of Afghan asylum seeker

October 20, 2015 | the age

Members of the Afghan Community mourn the death of Khodayar Amini.

Members of the Afghan Community mourn the death of Khodayar Amini. Photo: Jason South

Members of Dandenong’s Hazara community gathered in parkland in Dandenong on Tuesday to pay their respects to Afghan asylum seeker Khodayar Amini, who died after setting himself on fire on Sunday.

A dozen men and women, including several community leaders, laid flowers around a burnt patch of grassland where the 30-year-old died 48 hours earlier.

The burnt area at Robert Reserve was just 20 metres from a popular walking path and several sports ovals and is clearly visible from the walking track.

Most who came to pay tribute had never met Mr Amini, who is believed to have been living in the area for only a short time, but they expressed their shock and anger at the senseless death.

John Golzari, a representative from the Dandenong Hazara community, said locals were shocked by the tragedy.

“We came here to pay our tributes and respects to this death … to tragically end his life like this, it shouldn’t have happened. It’s tragic. It’s sad and it shouldn’t have happened under our government’s watch.

Members of the Afghan Community lay flowers at the site where Khodayar Amini self-immolated in a park in Dandenong.

Members of the Afghan Community lay flowers at the site where Khodayar Amini self-immolated in a park in Dandenong. Photo: JasonSouth

“It’s a very sad day today. People have been shocked and the biggest concern for myself is that there are 31,000 people in the same situation on bridging visas and some of them might be considering doing the same thing. We don’t want to see this happen again.”

Local resident Zakia Baig, a Hazara Pakistani, who has been living in Australia for nine years, said she had come to the site to see if what she had heard about the shocking death was true.

“I received a phone call about this and I came here to know there was a person who set himself on fire. It is hard to believe,” she said.

Ms Baig, who was visibly upset, also expressed her anger at the Australian government’s treatment of asylum seekers.

“I believe the immigration has caused him to set himself on fire … It shows the enormous pressure he was under. How can somebody be right mentally when they get kept in a limbo knowing nothing about their future,” said Ms Baig.

Mr Amini had been released from the Yongah Hill detention centre in Western Australia on a bridging visa and had been living in Sydney before arriving in Dandenong.

Ms Baig said: “This is a shame for the nation, this is a shame for the government that they can’t provide safety to a human being that is asking for safety, for security, for a second chance for their life. It is insane, inhuman.”

It emerged Mr Amini had been charged by NSW police with making death threats and intimidating people in August.

The charges related to “an alleged offensive and threatening phone call received by an organisation”, a police spokeswoman said.

Mr Amini was due to appear in Burwood Local Court on November 10.

It is understood Immigration Department officials were seeking to interview him in relation to the charges, to determine if he should remain living in the community on a bridging visa.

Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young on Tuesday said she had been told Mr Amini’s “fear of being returned to immigration detention and sent back to Afghanistan drove him to take this extreme action”.

“What is clear is that the government’s cruel treatment of refugees is having disastrous effects for people both in detention and in the community,” she said.

“There needs to be a full, independent investigation into this case so that we can understand why this young man didn’t receive the support that he so clearly needed.”

For help or information call Lifeline 131 114, beyondblue 1300 224 636, MensLine 1300 789 978.

Source: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/hazara-community-shocked-angered-at-death-of-afghan-asylum-seeker-20151020-gkdxdo.html#ixzz3p6TfeivX

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Afghan asylum seeker feared dead after self-immolation during video call

October 19, 2015 | the guardian

Khodayar Amini, who is feared dead, told refugee advocates he feared he would be returned to detention because police and immigration department staff wanted to interview him. Photograph: Refugee Rights Action Network

Khodayar Amini, who is feared dead, told refugee advocates he feared he would be returned to detention because police and immigration department staff wanted to interview him. Photograph: Refugee Rights Action Network

An Afghan asylum seeker living in Australia on a bridging visa is feared dead after he self-immolated during a video call with refugee advocates.

Khodayar Amini, a Hazara Afghan aged 30, told staff at the Refugee Rights Action Network his fear of being sent back to detention, combined with his uncertain visa status and the threat of being returned to Afghanistan, was “killing him”.

At about 11.30am on Sunday, Amini made a video call to advocates Sarah Ross and Michelle Bui, and told them he feared he would be returned to detention because police and immigration department staff wanted to interview him.
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Amini, who was believed to be living in the eastern states, then threatened to take his own life before self-immolating on camera. During the call, he urged Ross and Bui to go to the media to share his plight.

“We tried to talk him out of it, I have received suicide intervention training so I used that,” Ross told Guardian Australia.

“He had been released from the Yongah Hill detention centre in Western Australia on a bridging visa, but he said immigration and police were looking for him, so he had been living out of his car and hiding in bushland.

“He had previously told us that most of his family had been killed by the Taliban in Afghanistan, and he was uncertain about his future and scared of going back to detention or being sent to Afghanistan.

“He told us it was killing him.”

Ross said she immediately called emergency services, and that the phone call with Amini cut-out. She and Bui later received a call from police, who told them a body that seemed to match Amini’s description had been found in Victorian bushland in Dandenong.

Police told them they could not confirm the body was Amini’s, and a coronial inquest would be carried out.

A spokesman from Victoria police confirmed to Guardian Australia emergency services had responded to a grass fire in Dandenong on Sunday. Once the fire was extinguished, a body was found, the spokesman said.
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“The death is not being treated as suspicious,” he said.

The night before receiving Amini’s call, Bui received a message from him that read: “My crime was that I was a refugee.”

“They [immigration] 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,” Amini wrote.

“I ask you to stand up for the rights of refugees and stop people being killed just because they have become refugees.”

Amini had no known family members in Australia.

Guardian Australia has contacted the office of the immigration minister, Peter Dutton, and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, for comment.

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In a statement, the Refugee Rights Action Network said Amini had been traumatised by the deaths of his friends including Nasim Najafi, who died at the Yongah Hill detention centre in July, and Ahmad Ali Jaffari, who died in the Villawood detention centre in 2013.

“We believe Khodayar’s experience and length of detention directly contributed to the deterioration of his mental health,” the statement said.

“The Refugee Rights Action Network further believes that Khodayar’s state of mind was symptomatic of the conditions surrounding his visa, which kept him in a constant state of limbo and fear of re-detainment and deportation.”

The Hazaras are mostly from the Shiite Muslim minority in Afghanistan and several thousand members of the community now live in Australia. Last October, the Australian government began forcibly deporting Hazara asylum seekers who had been living in the community, a controversial decision given violence against the ethnic minority in Afghanistan is escalating.
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It led the Refugee Council of Australia to write to the immigration department to plea for a moratorium on all returns of Afghan asylum seekers.

According to a report from the United Nations high commissioner for refugees, many asylum-seekers living in the community on bridging visas are unable to work as a condition of their visa, and as a result can find themselves living in a state of destitution.

“With limited options available for volunteering, asylum-seekers are increasingly socially isolated,” the report said.

“While residing in the community is thought to be better than being in held detention, the mental health impacts of living in such uncertainty over a prolonged period and in a state of destitution presented as detrimental and debilitating.”

Last year, Tamil asylum seeker Leo Seemanpillai, who had been living in Geelong on a bridging visa, died after self-immolating.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/oct/19/afghan-asylum-seeker-feared-dead-after-self-immolation-during-video-call

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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.”

Source: https://www.thesaturdaypaper.com.au/news/law-crime/2015/08/08/how-mohammad-nasim-najafi-died-detention-centre/14389560002226

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