Last week, a 27-year-old asylum-seeker – believed to be Mohammad Nasim Najafi – died in a Western Australian detention centre. Nasim Najafi came to Australia believing it was a country that helps people when they are in need. Today, Greens Senator Sarah Hanson Young reflects on how we failed him.
Would you stay in your house if your parents had been killed by men who lorded over your town or village?
Would you stay knowing that if the men came back and found you, you and the rest of your family would be next?
I wouldn’t. If it was my family I’d be out of there as fast as I could. With little money and no access to passports or travel visas, I’d have to cross the border, quietly. If I was caught, we’d all be dead.
Crossing the border, knowing I can’t return, all of a sudden I’ve become a refugee. My one goal is to find somewhere safe for my family, somewhere we can call home.
This is the experience of many people who have fled Afghanistan.
Mohammad’s family are Hazara, part of the persecuted minority in Afghanistan. We are told he was lucky to escape after his father was killed by the Taliban. Leaving his mother and the rest of his family in hiding, he hoped to find a safe place where they could start a new life.
Having no access to a visa to fly, he came to Australia by boat. He arrived at Christmas Island four years ago. Unaware of how harsh Australia’s laws are to those who arrived by boat, Mohammad had no idea that even if he arrived safely, spent years in detention and was recognised as a refugee, he would never be able to bring his family here to meet him.
This is the current law. Refugees who come to Australia by boat are not allowed to be reunited with their families here – even if they too are refugees.
Last Friday, Mohammad died in custody inside the Yongah Hill Detention Centre in WA. He’d been in detention in Australia for almost four years. The reason he was in detention for so long was never disclosed to him.
Those he had become friends with in detention describe him as a loving and caring person who always spoke about his family who were still in Afghanistan.
He came to Australia because he believed we are a country that helps people when they are in need. He came here believing that our Government would understand the reasons people are fleeing the torture and brutality of the Taliban. We were, of course, part of the coalition forces; our own brave men and women fought the evils of the Taliban during the longest war in Australian history. I can see why Mohammad would think that here in Australia we would understand his family’s plight. Sadly, we didn’t.