Refugees speak on Fezal's death on Christmas Island

November 20, 2015
Photo: Alex Bainbridge.

Despite the immigration minister's attempts to block information and ban journalists from offshore detention camps, information continues to leak out.

Ali Bakhtiarvandi was held in immigration detention for four and a half years in the early 2000s before being recognised as a refugee. He is in regular telephone contact with detainees on Christmas Island.

He spoke to Green Left Weekly's Chris Peterson about the recent events on Christmas Island.

* * *

I received a call from Christmas Island on Sunday November 8 to say that Fezal Chegini had escaped. They found his body that morning.

Some people said he escaped on Friday but others said they saw him alive in the detention centre on Saturday. He was near the medical centre and he was begging the Serco guards to loosen his handcuffs.

His death made people very upset. They asked the Serco guards what was the cause of Chegini's death but they said they don't know and in any case any evidence was soon washed away by the rain.

I had a similar experience when I was in detention. There was a Palestinian man who complained about pains in his stomach. For months he was just given panadol for the pain. Later it emerged he had stomach cancer, and he died in detention.

After the guards left, people rang their families to say a final goodbye because they didn't expect to survive an attack by the Federal Police.

It's not clear if rubber bullets were used but they definitely used tear gas.

I suspect they have removed the key witnesses to the death of Fezal from Christmas Island to prison on the mainland to try to undermine the investigation.

The government says there has been $10 million in damage to the detention centre. This is propaganda by Immigration to make people hate and fear refugees.

I received another call from Christmas Island on November 13. For two nights they had nowhere to sleep, no mattress or pillow or blankets.

There is also a big food problem and they don't have access to their property. The first day after the attack, more than 150 people received only 50 sandwiches to share between them. They have been given one shirt each and one pair of shoes. They don't know if their property has been confiscated.

Since Serco and federal police attacked the camp it has been more difficult to get information. As far as I know, Immigration won't let anyone in unless they work for them, not even lawyers with permission from the High Court. Immigration has enormous power over people, possibly even more than federal police.

The same week an inquiry into Fezal's death was launched, Ranjini was released. I am very happy she has been released, but the immigration department has given no explanation for why she has been released now, or why she was locked up in the first place? I suspect the immigration department hopes to distract us from the death of Fezal. We still have not received any explanation of the death of Reza Berati.

There are three ministers responsible for Fezal's death: Peter Dutton, Scott Morrison and Labor's Chris Bowen. They should all be sent to the International Criminal Court.

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