Letter from a refugee: ‘This system broke my heart’

Thursday, June 23, 2011
Rohingya refugees in Malaysia. Photo: UNHCR

UPDATE — June 24: The author of this letter carried out a five-day hunger strike at the Northern Immigration Detention Centre in Darwin that began on June 20.

During his hunger strike, he protested on the rooftop of the detention centre and refused to come down.

He says that although he has been found to be a refugee, he does not know when his 18 month long detention will end as ASIO has not given him a security clearance. He now says that he wants to leave Australia.

See also
Letter from a refugee to World Environment Day rallies: 'We thank you for remembering us'
End the live export of asylum seekers
Nauru detention plan extreme, dehumanising
Malaysian MP slams refugee outsourcing deal

* * *

I am a Rohingya Burmese refugee asylum seeker in Australia and I left Burma since the end of 1999 for certain circumstances based on race, political and systematic oppression.

Due to the Burmese military government’s long war against minorities through an ethnic cleansing pogrom, the Rohingya ethnic minority became the most oppressed group and Burma’s first refugees.

I escaped to Malaysia and spent 10 years where I worked with Rohingya refugee organisations and Burmese political opposition groups based in Kuala Lumpur.

As a result of my involvement in human rights and community welfare activities, I faced interrogations by intelligence police. I have been personally detained six times and deported on four occasions.

Finally, I left Malaysia and took the risky journey by boat to Australia. Unexpectedly, I was detained for18 months, both here in Darwin’s Northern Immigration Detention Facility and on Christmas Island.

As I was well known in Malaysia I also brought here identities, which I had used in the past decade. The inappropriate length for my security checks is nonsense since I was found to be refugee by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship at the end of May 2010.

The wait is longer than longer, neither it does put priority on vulnerable cases, nor longer cases. And there is no queue system in the process.

It is unexplainable about the longer than longer wait. What is happening to mental and physical health while matters of individual concerns were unable to influence the process.

I wish to stress this situation is difficult and is a form of psychological torture for me.

However, the government notice released on March 17 had eased my long worries.

I did believe my case would be finalised by April. Although immigration said our Burmese cases are the first priority, at the end my case has been outstanding and not undertaken according to the details of the government notice.

So far, how sad it is that my case is not yet finalised. It seems as if ASIO does not know I am detained here for the whole of last year until now.

As I acknowledge, the mandatory detention system has a mandate with key values, which ensure fair and humane treatment. Security assessment is a minor part compared to the major Refugee Status Assessment (RSA) process.

While thousands of other clients have been released timely and properly, the length of my detention is unexplained. It has reached an excessive period and is intolerable.

Several letters I sent to the outgoing and current immigration ministers, ASIO and the inspector-general of intelligence, appear to be unread.

My ongoing case is totally unjust, unlawful and inappropriate. It is also paving the way for a deterioration and will cause unexpected things.

An 18-month process is too long a period to wait for a result and is an excessive length of time for processing a single case.

It does nothing more than disadvantage and prolong the detention of an innocent refugee.

I raised this matter in the detention community meeting on April 13 and sent a letter to a senior officer in charge of NT detentions before the government notice expired in the end of April.

I did this because I wanted to hear the result of my case, whether positive or negative.



As a result of me asking for my welfare and security, I was kept 19 days (from April 29 to May 17) in an isolation compound.

During these days, immigration officials came routinely to write down my concerns.

After that I was informed on May 20 that ASIO had agreed to finalise my case shortly, but had not given a timeframe.

Although it might not have taken longer for my single case compared to the thousand cases that were finalised with 20 days, I am still kept. Unfortunately, it does not show good conduct and good order.

I see my only choice is rooftop protesting again on World Refugee Day, even [though] it will not bring an outcome except another mess, and no doubt to lay charges against my freedom of expression.

But I don’t know what is the other way to apply against unlawful, prolonged and arbitrary detention. As my concerns, requests, endurances, situations and letters were not made any sense.

Thus, the action doesn’t matter for me and makes no difference whether it stops or progresses.

In summary, I want to raise the ongoing indirect discrimination against Burmese cases.

Burmese refugee asylum-seekers in Australia are being less valued than the Australian cattle.

I am a stateless, recognised refugee and I have the right to be transferred to another country if the department claims my criteria is a threat to security. But, my liberty should not be hampered by any means of such indefinite manner.

I am a UNHCR recognised refugee and I never committed any criminal offences.

Therefore both departments [DIAC and ASIO] are responsible for my prolonged detention and risking my health condition.

As we know, Australia is a leader in humanitarian fields and advocates and assists for the welfare of refugees, particularly in Burma’s neighbouring countries.

The government departments must respect the rights and the dignity of refugees in terms of Australian way of human rights.

I never expected this thing would happen to me in Australia. Now, I feel anxiety and feel unsafe in this situation. This system has threatened me and broke my heart.

As well as, this system hinders my liberty and whatever getting informs were not accountable, nor correctly informed.

I have had enough in detention and I don’t want to stay any more in detention or in
Australia.

I want to quit as soon as possible from defining me as a risk person. I am not a person from a country with terrorists.

Therefore, in the spirit of World Refugee Day, I would like to call Australian communities, including Australian human rights groups and international communities to come together to call to finalise my case unconditionally.

Sincerely,
Habiburahman,
ID here: MAL-1, UNHCR's File No. 512-03C-00571
A prolonged Burmese refugee asylum-seeker detainee
Northern Immigration Detention Centre — Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia

From GLW issue 885

Comments

Welcome to Freedom

Mate, as an Australian I am agree with his statement. They came to us with great hope. If we don't welcome, we might not detained them. We might find a decision for them.
But our nation is a migrant nation and why not we welcome these a few desperate people.

The matter is not with them but with our systems which do not follow own guideline and procedure. These desperate people might not be hit by our political winds.

This case should be solved immediately by Australian govt.

Accordingly, he is not a criminal,he is a UNHCR registered refugee from Burma. He should get justice immediately because Australia is one of the members of G8. If this news is spread throughout the world,it would make Australia very shameful for its inhumane treatment to an innocent person who is also an asylum seeker. He should get immediate response from the concerned authorities of detention centers because he is already under psychological torture for more than 18 months.

I personally request the Australian govt. to release this Rohingya refugee of Burma unconditionally. It would regenerate the name and fame of Australia. We know that Australia is a such country where people respect human rights and democracy. I pray and hope that Australian govt. may solve it very soon for the betterment of humanity and freedom.

please release him, or atleast send back to Malaysia

He's also human belong to this planet. He is suffering all these just because of his "Rohingya" identity. He had to leave his native also for it.

Please release him.

NO country want to give nationality to Rohingya, nor coerce Burma for recognize Rohingya as their own citizen (though they are indigenous people of Arakan, Burma).

I request to the Govt. of Australia, Please release him (including all Rohingya in detention center).

thanks in advance

burmese guy on hunger strike

Mate you have been involved in politics in malaysia, now performing a political act and your letter makes that plain. why attempt to use the situation of others in an attempt to put pressure on australia in hearing your individual case. this is a place where we take our peace and quiet seriously. your political inspired actions, claiming the moral high ground on behalf of people having a harder time of it than you is not likely to impress many aussies. its about you. you are a rabble rouser, a political agitator in a country that has no shortage of such characters. good luck with your application etc. but I'd vote for your return to malaysia. the good news is my vote accounts for nothing in your case. good luck with it mate.

why we concern for

Mate, this letter pointing the truth and i do not see as intervention. When both of current PM and opposition leader are migrants, why we concern for this letter.
His arrival as a refugee is better than the other arrivals.

Great articles and i enjoy to read it

Hello !!

Great articles and i enjoy to read it . God be wiht the Burmese Peoples for their strugle of FREEDOM !!
Salai Tluang
California

burmese bloke on the roof

Your letter makes it plain you have a long term political agenda. the act of climbing on the roof and sending your open letter are themselves political acts. This country is a place where we take our peace and quiet seriously. your attempt at putting pressure on australia by using the plight of others who are doing it a lot harder than you is not likely to impress many aussies. it is about you as an individual not what your politics are or what other people are doing. you have marked yourself as a rabble rouser and political activist in a country not short of that type of person and frustrated on a daily basis by similar acts in national parliament. I wish you good luck with your application but would vote for your return to malaysia. the good news is my vote has about as much weight as yours.

Shameful attitude

Heaven forbid someone complain about being imprisoned in unnecessary and harsh conditions. You think your supposed right to "peace and quiet" outweighs another person's right to demonstrate that they are on the verge of mental breakdown because of being detained for no good reason?

You seem not to have noticed that Australia is officially a democracy where anyone has the right to perform as many "political acts" as they like.

Not everyone is as selfish as you, nor does everyone subscribe to the false sense of conformity that you seem to believe in. Since you dislike protest so much, perhaps you should move to Malaysia - you've got about the same attitude as the Malaysian government does.

Think as an Australian

Of course, I received his open letter but Green Left censored some sensitive part. As a genuine case why he need to be detained unnecessarily and inappropriately when many faking cases were able to be granted.
If you would be subjected unfairly and disadvantaged by puppet security checks, what is wrong in pointing. We must learn to correct into account but not by hanging his case.
To support his stm, here is another letter : http://thesail.files.wordpress.com/2011/06/ndphr-statement-on-world-refu...
He fled from persecutions and again threaten in Malaysia so his way to here is unavoidably. rea carefully, he didn't ask for visa but to finalize his case. It's fair enough? Call the gov departments to settle his case fairly.
All of us must stop the gov's wasting our taxes in detention projects. 90% benefits absorb by contractors.