Dana Affleck is a refugee advocate and founder of Road to Refuge. Here she shares her memories of Fazel, the asylum seeker whose death has triggered rioting on Christmas Island.
This gentle, wonderful man, Fazel Chegeni, has died under suspicious circumstances on Christmas Island after already being through hell and back both in Iran and in Australia.
I knew him from visits at MITA (Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation) and late night dinners. I remember his sweet, quietly playful nature, how he always put on a brave face for us and his easy going laugh.
Fazel arrived by boat seeking protection in Australia in October 2010. It is now November 2015. Fazel was confirmed as being a refugee by the Immigration Department and had security clearance.
In 2011, he was involved in a fight in a detention centre that saw him bashed despite not actually lifting a finger himself, as evidenced by video footage. Despite that, this made him a “person of interest” (no charge or conviction) to the authorities, further elongating his detention.
In the prosecution, Scott Morrison, who was Minister at the time, went so far as to hire a QC to run the case in the Magistrates’. An expensive and political decision focused on PR and political outcomes rather than justice and due process. He was given a good behaviour bond. However, while the good behaviour bond meant that the criminal justice system allowed him to live freely, the Immigration Department had other plans and Fazel’s time in detention stretched on.
He tried to end his life twice while in detention in Melbourne and Brisbane. After his attempt in Brisbane, rather than receiving proper care and support, Fazel was sent to one of the most brutal detention centres in Australia: Christmas Island.