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Experts Slam Safety of Christmas Island Immigration Detention Plans

Christmas Island Detention Plan Simply Dangerous Say Experts.

Media Release 7 August 2020

Jane Salmon

Human rights lawyer Adjunct Professor George Newhouse said today that the coronial report into the death of Fazel Chegeni late in 2015 illustrates unsuitable conditions on Christmas Island as a detention outpost. The coronial findings can be accessed at Inquest into the Death of Fazel CHEGENI NEJAD

The delays in processing across distance exacerbated Chegeni’s problems. The Coroner heard evidence the deceased had spent a long time in the immigration detention system and over time, his prolonged detention had led to a deterioration in his mental health. Efforts were being made to release the deceased into the community, but the deceased remained in detention. He was transferred to Christmas Island IDC shortly before his death. The Coroner found the evidence suggested a detrimental affect on his mental health, as a result of the transfer, which could be causally connected to his death. There are people currently detained by the Department of Home Affairs - some in WA on Christmas Island and in the Yongah Hill Immigration Detention Centre - whose circumstances are not dissimilar to Fazel's.  They are mentally fragile and facing deportation. They are Isolated far from hospitals. Even extra mental health specialist supports will not be able to address that. Refugee advocates, the Federal Ombudsman, medical professionals, human rights lawyers and many other concerned people continue to condemn the system of indefinite, mandatory detention without charge or trial which inevitably leads to mental health issues, physical health issues and in too many cases, death. 

Fazel’s death was foreseeable. Further deaths can only be prevented by ending the policy of mandatory detention and the suite of punitive policies that target refugees, people seeking asylum and increasingly people who do not hold Citizenship, some of whom have lived in Australia for much of their lives. Christmas Island asylum-seeker death inquest told Fazel Chegeni Nejad was deemed 'high risk' (via ABC News online). In 2015, Fazel Chegeni Nejad was one of at least 9 people to die while subject to Australia's immigration policies, either while in custody or in the community. Since his death, more people have died in detention onshore, offshore and in the community.   Rights advocates deplore government plan to house deportees on Christmas Island (via SBS World News radio). Steven Caruana, who was a former Assistant Director on Christmas Island and a former Immigration Detention Inspector said, "When I think of Christmas Island I'm taken back to 2015. I think of Fazel Chegeni Nejad smiling at me in the 'Green Heart'. I think of searching for him in the jungle. I think of the riot that followed when his body was found. Reopening Christmas Island is like reopening a wound." (via @CaruanaSteven) The Human Rights Commissioner Ed Santow said yesterday that Christmas Island is not suitable for anyone. Mr Santow was interviewed on ABC News Afternoon Briefing on 5 August 2020.


George Newhouse 

Human Rights lawyer at National Justice Project

Steven Caruana

Australia OPCAT Network

Jane Salmon

Refugee Advocate NSW Australia The Australia OPCAT Network is a group of organisations, academics and individuals with an interest in the implementation of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT), a treaty that Australia ratified in December 2017. The OPCAT requires the member states to introduce a system of regular inspection visits to all places where people are deprived of their liberty, in order to prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

In January 2020, the Australia OPCAT network published a comprehensive report focusing on key issues related to Australia’s implementation of its obligations under the OPCAT.


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