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