Vigils to remember the man of flowers

Refugee advocates holding placards at a vigil in Sydney.
A vigil to remember refugee Salim Kyawmin, in Sydney on May 22. Photo: Zebedee Parkes

Refugee activists in Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney held protest vigils for Salim Kyawmin, an elderly Rohingya man who died on Manus Island on May 22. The largest action was in Melbourne where 200 people occupied the streets for a short, time stopping traffic. In Perth refugee activists occupied the department of Immigration, making flowers and in Brisbane a protest was held in front of Peter Duttons office.

Salim's death is considered a suicide. He suffered serious epilepsy that was never properly treated and spent five years in detention: many are calling it another death by detention policy.

Salim is the 11th person to die under Australia's offshore detention regime. Immigration minister Peter Dutton has refused to comment on his death and did not even notify his family, who found out only when refugee advocates in Australia called them.

Salim was known as a man of flowers, as he would often wear them behind his ears and playfully twirl them in his fingers. Many people brought flowers to the vigils and laid them on the ground.

Members of the Rohingya community spoke at the vigils. Shawfiqul Islam, a former refugee now working as a National Union of Workers organiser, told the Melbourne crowd that cruel treatment drives good people such as Salim to take their own lives.

Aziz, a refugee speaking from Manus Island via phone, said that negligence killed Salim, who did not receive proper medical care. Azim, another refugee speaking from Manus Island, said the Australian government killed Salim through lack of proper medical treatment.

Greens Senator Janet Rice said indefinite detention is torture and the Australian government has blood on its hands.