Tag Archives: asylum policy

New Zealand’s offer to resettle 150 offshore refugees a year never taken up

January 11, 2016 | theguardian

Refugees on Nauru plead with the NZ prime minister, John Key, to be resettled but its immigration minister says the decision is up to Australia

The Nauru detention centre from which 28 refugees have written to the NZ government seeking resettlement.
 The Nauru detention centre from which 28 refugees have written to the NZ government seeking resettlement.

A two-year-old offer from New Zealand to resettle 150 refugees a year from Australia’s offshore detention centres remains untouched by a reluctant Australian government, despite a public plea from people on Nauru.

The New Zealand government has since reallocated this year’s places to Syrian refugees but says the offer remains part of its official immigration policy and open to the Australian government.

Last week 28 refugees on Nauru wrote to the New Zealand prime minister, John Key, asking to be resettled in that country under the Australia-New Zealand agreement.

The refugees have been found to have a well-founded fear of persecution in their homelands but have been offered only temporary residence in Nauru.

“Australia will not accept us despite us asking them for safety,” the handwritten letter, signed and affixed with the refugees’ boat numbers, says.

“They gave us to the Nauru government and told us we were now their responsibility. Nauru has not given us, and does not have the means to give us, permanent protection and safety.

“After 30 months in mouldy tents and now in the community where we are not accepted, some of us now have travel papers which give us the freedom to leave.”

In response to the letter, New Zealand’s immigration minister, Michael Woodhouse, said it was up to Australia to resettle people from its offshore detention camps and that New Zealand remained willing to assist.

“It is for Australia to take up the offer to utilise the up to 150 places and to date they have not done so,” he said. “As such, the places are reallocated to the annual quota and most recently the places were given to Syrian refugees.”

In a deal brokered between prime ministers Key and Julia Gillard in 2013, New Zealand agreed to accept 150 refugees from Australia’s offshore processing centres each year from 2014-15.

The quota remains in New Zealand’s forward planning for humanitarian resettlement.

But when the former Australian prime minister, Tony Abbott, was elected he effectively scrapped the deal at the Australian end, saying it would be called upon only “if and when it becomes necessary”.

“Our determination is to stop the boats and one of the ways that we stop the boats is by making it absolutely crystal clear that if you come to Australia illegally by boat you go not to New Zealand but to Nauru or Manus and you never ever come to Australia,” he said.

The Coalition government is loath to have refugees resettled in New Zealand as it is seen as undermining a fundamental tenet of the policy: that boat-borne asylum seekers will never be settled in Australia.

Refugees resettled in New Zealand can apply to become citizens after five years. New Zealand citizenship would give those people the right to travel and work in Australia.

The prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, said he believed resettlement in New Zealand would be an incentive for asylum seekers to board boats.

“I think an outcome like that could … result in creating incentives for people smugglers to get back into business,” he said.

Some refugees on Nauru have recently been granted travel documents, which would allow them to travel to another country that was willing to admit them. The visa to live in Nauru expires in five years.

Nauruan officials maintain that all refugees must ultimately be resettled in another country.

So far, 815 people have been granted refugee status on the island, including, it is understood, about 80 children. They are living in the detention centre or in the Nauruan community.

A further 543 people, including 70 children, remain in the detention centre awaiting a refugee status determination.

After Nauru and Manus Island’s first iterations as Australian immigration detention facilities – under the “Pacific Solution” between 2001 and 2008 – 705 people from those centres were resettled in Australia and 401 in New Zealand. Far smaller numbers were resettled in Sweden, Canada, Denmark and Norway.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2016/jan/11/new-zealands-offer-to-take-150-offshore-refugees-a-year-never-taken-up

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Asylum seeker boat reaches Christmas Island

November 20, 2015 | Sky News

An asylum seeker boat has reportedly reached Christmas Island in the early hours of this morning.

There are reports an asylum seeker boat has reached Christmas Island.

SBS are reporting that the boat made it near Flying Fish Cove before being intercepted by the Australian Navy.

Locals told SBS it is the first time a boat has been that close since January 2013.

It is believed the boat arrived within 200 metres of the cove in the early hours of Friday morning.

It is unclear if the boat was taken to the mainland or whether it would be towed back to its origin.

Source: http://www.skynews.com.au/news/top-stories/2015/11/20/asylum-seeker-boat-reaches-christmas-island.html#sthash.ThUUYTjp.dpuf

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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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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.

Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-10-30/doctors-step-up-fight-to-free-children-in-immigration-detention/6897514

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Australian officials paid asylum seeker boat crew, Amnesty investigation alleges

October 29. 2015 | the guardian

A masked Indonesian crew member of an alleged people-smuggling boat is put on display behind a table of US dollar notes at a press conference on Rote Island in June.

 A masked Indonesian crew member of an alleged people-smuggling boat is put before the media alongside a table of US dollar notes at a press conference on Rote Island in June. The money was allegedly given to the crew of the boat by an Australian official to bring migrants back to Indonesia. Photograph: Indonesian police/EPA

Australian government officials may have engaged in people smuggling, by allegedly paying the crew of an asylum seeker boat to return its passengers to Indonesia, an Amnesty International investigation has found.

In May this year, the 65 passengers and six crew of an asylum seeker boat bound for New Zealand said they were intercepted by an Australian naval ship and an Australian Border Force vessel in international waters.

Australian government officials on board reportedly paid the crew of the vessel $32,000 – in US $100 bills – and instructed them to return the asylum seekers to Indonesia, directing them to Rote Island.

After interviewing all 65 passengers who were on board the ship, as well as the six crew and Indonesian officials, the Amnesty report press release concluded “all of the available evidence points to Australian officials having committed a transnational crime”.

On Thursday the immigration minister Peter Dutton said the government had already rejected the report’s allegations.

“To suggest otherwise, as Amnesty has done, is to cast a slur on the men and women of the Australian Border Force and Australian Defence Force.”

Anna Shea, a researcher on refugee and migrant rights with Amnesty UK, said evidence showed government officials were allegedly paying a boat crew, providing fuel and materiel, and giving instructions on where the boat should be sailed.

“People smuggling is a crime usually associated with private individuals, not governments – but here we have allegations that Australian officials are not just involved, but directing operations.

“When it comes to its treatment of those seeking asylum, Australia is becoming a lawless state.”

Australian officials reportedly intercepted the asylum seeker boat twice, on 17 May and 22 May.

Those on board said the ship was well-equipped and that no distress signal was sent at any time. The crew said the boat never entered Australian waters and had enough food and fuel on board to reach New Zealand.

In the second interdiction, the majority of asylum seekers boarded the Australian Border Force ship after allegedly being told they could bathe on board.

Once on board, however, they said they were held in cells for several days, before they were transferred to two smaller boats and instructed to sail for the island of Rote. One boat ran out of fuel, forcing all of its passengers onto the other. That boat foundered on a reef at Landu Island, near Rote, from where locals rescued the passengers.

On the original boat, the six crew claimed Australian officials gave them $32,000 – two of the men received $6,000, four $5,000 – in exchange for the crew agreeing to pilot the boat back to Indonesia.

One asylum seeker told Amnesty he allegedly witnessed a transaction between Australian officials and the ship’s captain in the kitchen of the boat, and saw the captain put a white envelope in his shorts pocket.

Shea told the Guardian the 62 passengers from the vessel were interviewed, as a group, on three separate occasions in Indonesian immigration detention in Kupang in West Timor, where they are currently being held.

The six crew, who are in police custody on Rote Island, were interviewed separately to the passengers.

“What was really remarkable was the degree of correlation and consistency in the testimony of the asylum seekers and the crew, who were held in different locations, and who were not in communication,” Shea said.

Indonesian police have reported they found $32,000 is US $100 bills on the crew. Amnesty researchers photographed the money confiscated.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/oct/29/australian-officials-paid-asylum-seeker-boat-crew-amnesty-investigation-alleges

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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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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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