“The Edmund Rice Centre is distressed to learn of another asylum seeker death in ‘detention’,” John Sweeney, the Centre’s coordinator of research, affirmed today.
“In the early hours of Monday morning ‘Ali’, an asylum seeker from Iran, died in Liverpool Hospital. Medical advice suggests to us that the ongoing stress was very probably the most significant factor causing his death. Ali had committed no crime. It was cruel, it was inhuman and degrading.”
“Ali and his friends had been trying for over 2 years to convince people in the Department of Immigration, Federal Magistrates, the Minister for Immigration, the Ombudsman, the Human Rights Commission that not only was he a genuine refugee but that his prolonged detention was causing him severe damage.”
“Ali was suffering from post-traumatic shock disorder after his frightening experiences as a pro-democracy demonstrator in Iran and witnessing other desperate traumatised people in immigration detention in Australia engage in self-harm. He suffered repeated anxiety attacks about his wife and children alone in Teheran.”
“The Department had very good evidence that detaining Ali was causing him serious harm and yet refused to respond to protect those fundamental rights. He had no right to appeal whether his detention complied with Human Rights Law before a court.”
“After WWII Australia and many other nations made solemn commitments to respect every person's fundamental rights. Article 7 of the Convention on Civil and Political Rights says, ‘No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.’
Article 9 says, ‘Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention. No one shall be deprived of his liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedure as are established by law.’ and ‘Anyone who is deprived of his liberty by arrest or detention shall be entitled to take proceedings before a court, in order that that court may decide without delay on the lawfulness of his detention and order his release if the detention is not lawful.’ These articles are flouted every day in Australia because asylum seekers, who are still human beings, have become demonised by cynical politicians and shock jocks.”
“Systemic cruelty may have begun in Australia with the treatment of convicts and aborigines in 1788, but it has not stopped. Today many men, women and children remain in prison - except we use the euphemism ‘detention’ being punished despite having committed no crime. This punishment by imprisonment is inflicted upon asylum seekers in an immoral effort to send a message to others - who similarly are desperately fleeing war, torture and conflict. That message is that they should not come here to Australia, because they will only face more cruelty and degradation and, like Ali, their pleas for help will fall on deaf ears and hard hearts.”