Jane Salmon

Fazel survived torture in Iran – He didn’t survive Australia’s offshore detention

With the conditions of our offshore detention now being exposed, it’s best we do not forget Fazel Chegeni, a true victim of our apathy.

 

 

“I was tortured in Iran, now I am being tortured here.”

Fazel was a gentle man who had survived torture in Iran but was never going to survive Australia’s brutal detention regime. He was assessed as a stateless refugee deserving of our protection, but instead of receiving our compassion he ended up dying a sad and lonely death on Christmas Island.

 

 

Our government has implemented cruel policies to deter deaths at sea, but the combination of lethal indifference and incompetence on the part of corporate service providers and public servants, encouraged by the cruel leadership of the Minister for Immigration, guarantees that Fazel’s death will not be the last.

In 2005, the Palmer Inquiry made recommendations about improving mental health care in detention which would have saved Fazel but those recommendations were wound back under Tony Abbott’s Prime Ministership.

The government’s own mental health advisory panel (DeHAG) warned them that torture victims should not be held in closed detention centres like Christmas Island – but those warnings went unheeded because of the government’s political objectives to turn back people seeking asylum.

To make matters worse, there was no good reason to send Fazel back to Christmas Island particularly when he told doctors as far back as 2012 that the unrest on Christmas Island made it an unpleasant environment and it depressed his mood, triggered his anxiety and caused mental health problems.

 

 

Fazel’s family want to know who will be held accountable for his death and the rising death toll in Australia’s off-shore detention centres. At least nine people have died in offshore detention since Fazel took his own life.

Over the next few weeks, the community will hear an extraordinary story of cruelty, incompetence and indifference. At the end of this inquest, they will know Fazel for who he was; loved by his mum and dad, his family and fellow refugees.

The question that needs to be answered is do we care, do we care enough to demand the end to the suffering and deaths in immigration detention?

Fazel became mentally ill as a result of his prolonged incarceration without proper diagnostic care. Our government knows that victims of torture should not be locked up like animals, but they ignored the warnings and poor Fazel’s desperate pleas for mental health support.


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Government officials knew Fazel was vulnerable and sick but they sent him anyway. They watched him spiral into despair and ultimately to his death without intervening. They knew they were sending him to a place where suitable mental health services aren’t available.

Reforms such as improvements to mental health care, independent oversight and review of medical decisions which were introduced into the detention system after the wrongful detention of Cornelia Rau need to be reinstated.

In the below video, Fazel says: “Detention had a serious psychological impact, as if it was for 10 years…honestly, when they first put us in that cage we said we’d never come out of here
again.”

 

Jane Salmon

Jane is an army brat raised in Canberra, Brisbane, Malaysia, Sydney, Bucks UK, Wimbledon London, Mittagong. Father overseas for lots of jolly wars in between. She is also the mother of two boys with ASD, holds a double major in Government from Sydney Uni and works as a publicist for NGOs focussing on foreign aid, social justice, environment and transport.

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