Grave concerns for Melbourne detention hunger striker

The Refugee Action Coalition has grave concerns for the welfare of “Mahdi” (not his real name) an Iranian asylum seeker now in his 23nd day on hunger strike in Melbourne’s detention centre, MITA (Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation). It is understood that the 42-year-old asylum seeker has now stopped drinking.

The hunger strike is one of the most serious to have taken place in immigration detention in recent years.

It has been Home Affairs’ recent practice to allow hunger strikers in detention to collapse before proving medical attention to rehydrate them. This practice also avoids detainees being able to consciously deny treatment, as is their right.

Mahdi has been found to be a refugee but the Minister has refused to grant the visa on character grounds. That refusal follows the cancellation of his bridging visa in 2016.

Mahdi has been in a mental hospital and then prison just four months from August to December 2016, but he has now been in immigration detention for almost seven years!

Mahdi is a victim of s501 of the Migration Act which allows the government to impose extra-judicial punishment on non-citizens. He is one of the refugees who is a victim of the government’s indefinite detention polices that UN special rapporteur on torture Alice Edwards has called “inhumane”.

Immigration Minister Andrew Giles has said many times that the government is committed to “risk-based immigration detention policies”, and that “people should be living in the community if they do not pose a risk”. So why is Mahdi (and others like him) still in immigration detention?

Daily protests have been held in Yongah Hill detention centre for more than two weeks calling for immigration detainees to be freed.

Mahdi has already been diagnosed as suffering from PTSD from his treatment in Iran. His prolonged time in detention has left him even more traumatised.

Mahdi told the Refugee Action Coalition a few days ago, “Brother, I don’t want to live any more, I’m tired of everything.” After the criminal justice system sentenced Mahdi to just four months in prison, the immigration system has imposed a life sentence.

“It’s time to end the torture,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition, “Mahdi should be released.”

For more information contact Ian Rintoul 0417 275 713

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