REFUGEE RIGHTS ACTION NETWORK MEDIA RELEASE
The Coronial Inquest into the death in custody of Fazel Chegeni Nejad, a Faili Kurd who was detained on Christmas Island at the time of his death, is scheduled to be heard from 30 July – 10 August 2018.
Refugee Rights Action Network WA have called for people to gather outside the Coroner’s Court on the opening day bearing paper cranes. Fazel used to spend countless hours folding paper cranes for the happiness of others, which his visitors would then take to people in hospital, aged and hospice care on his behalf. Following Fazel’s death, people in detention and in the community folded paper cranes to honour his memory.
Fazel Chegeni had been held in immigration detention for over 4 years at the time of his death. He was found to be owed protection in early 2012 but remained in detention after being charged for a minor incident while he was detained at Curtin IDC in 2011. As someone who could not be refouled to Iran, the punitively applied ‘character test’ meant that he was denied a visa and effectively sentenced to indefinite detention. His medical files document the deterioration of his mental health and decreasing ability to cope in the detention environment. There are people currently detained by the Department of Home Affairs whose circumstances are not dissimilar to Fazel’s, this includes an Iranian man who is currently detained at the Yongah Hill Immigration Detention Centre who has commenced a hunger strike after entering his 6th year in detention.
In December 2015 it was reported that Fazel’s body was found in bushland outside of the Christmas Island Detention Centre. This Inquest will examine the manner and cause of Fazel’s death.
Michelle Bui from RRAN WA stated, ‘In many cases, Coronial Inquests of people who have died in custody or while subject to Australia’s punitive immigration policies result in no recommendations or if recommendations are made, they are not implemented. Fazel was not the first nor last person to die under the system of mandatory detention. We hope the Coroner will carefully examine the systemic issues involved in his case and the context in which Fazel found himself in detention for such a prolonged period. We believe the best way to prevent deaths in custody is to end mandatory detention.’
Fazel’s death was a predictable outcome of policies and systems that devalue and dispose of human lives. People gathering to bear witness to the court proceedings call for Justice for Fazel which necessitates an end to 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.
She continues, ‘The inquest findings into the death of Hamid Khazaei who had been detained by the Australian government on Manus Island are due to be handed down as Fazel Chegeni’s inquest begins. Earlier this month the inquest into the death in custody of Dunghutti man David Dungay Jr who died in Long Bay jail – just weeks after Fazel – began and has already revealed accounts of brutal treatment at the hands of prison officers. We believe the pattern of deaths in police and prison custody as well as in immigration detention signals that there are serious systemic issues across these institutions that must be addressed.’
When: Monday 30 July from 8:15am
Where: Perth Coroner’s Court at Central Law Courts (501 Hay Street, Perth)
Contact: Michelle Bui, at court (0412 860 168), Sally Thompson, off-site (0409 720 804)
RRAN MeetingsRRAN WA is currently meeting on Mondays from 6.30pm at the Activist Centre, U15/5 Aberdeen Street, Perth (just north of the McIver Train Station). For more details, send us a message via our Contact RRAN WA page, or call/text us on 0412 860 168. Fremantle RRAN meets at 6pm on the first and third Wednesday of each month. Contact Fremantle RRAN