Latest Suicide In Australia’s Offshore Detention Centre Highlights The Failing Government System

The death of 26 year old Iranian refugee, Fariborz Karami on Nauru island this month has become the latest causality within Australia’s offshore detention centres. The Guardian, ABC News and a host of other news outlets this month have published the progressive investigation into the suicide of Iranian asylum seeker Karami on Nauru island. Karami, who was a son, brother and husband, committed suicide inside his family tent of RPC3 camp on Nauru island on Friday, 15 June. During his time in the camp, Karami repeatedly sought medical treatment for his declining mental health, however these pleas were continuously rejected by the Australian government.

In one written request for help, Karami wrote in his letter, “The thought of suicide doesn’t ever leave me. I am suffering intensely every day.” His illness was further documented by doctors in 2014 as they described his “increased suicidal ideation and agitation.” He had requested medication to “help with suicidal thoughts.” Prior to his death, Karami was described by his friend on Nauru island as a “young athletic guy, but he had been suffering a long time because of his family’s situation. He was sick and tired.” The official response by regional staff at the Nauru detention centre to the Guardian’s inquiries was that the issue “is Australia’s responsibility, it happened in their camp.”

Karami’s death is the direct result of the political policies implemented by the Australian Government. The political decisions made by both the Liberal and Labor parties have therefore created a political realm within which death, abuse and neglect is able to be accepted and facilitated within offshore detention centres. Tony Abbott’s government of 2013-15 launched the initial policies of Operation Sovereign Borders which privatized all information regarding the operations and treatment of immigrants found at sea or in detention centres. This policy has therefore left the government with the means to run detention centres according to their own discretion and without public accountability. The current Minister for Immigration, Peter Dutton, has clearly failed in his duty to both the government and the public as the continual deaths and abuses exposed within these centres come to light. These policies and ministers therefore highlight the urgent need for reform within the Australian government in order to keep vulnerable immigrants such as Karami safe in offshore detention centres.

Fariborz Karami first entered Nauru detention centre in 2013 at the age of 21, along with his mother and eight year old brother. Before coming to the detention centre, Karami was studying dentistry in Iran however due to the turmoil and persecution within the country, he along with his family sought safety in Australia. Five years later and newly married he was found near death by his wife at 9:00am on the morning of Friday, 15 June, and despite attempts to revive him he was pronounced dead at the scene by authorities. His death has therefore become the latest causality of Australia’s failing political system as the government’s repeated rejection of basic human rights targets the most vulnerable in society. Australia first began sending Immigrants to offshore detention centres in 2001-08, however it was renewed again in 2012. As of 31 May, 2018 there are 245 refugees still held on Nauru island. In total there have been a documented number of 12 deaths in detention centres on Manus or Nauru island since 2012, many of those being suicides.

After the death of Karami, his mother was taken into a medical facility located on the island and his 12 year old brother was taken into the custody of camp authorities. Karami’s death is simply the latest within a long pattern of suicides and abuses which have occurred in offshore detention centres and highlights the need for political change. The government’s complete disregard for basic human life and rights clearly begs the need for both social and political change. Leaving in his wake a younger brother, mother and widow his death becomes a testimony to the government’s failure to uphold an individual’s basic human right to safety. The futures of the remaining 245 refugees on Nauru island still remain unclear as the government continues to refuse its responsibility to uphold human rights regardless of ethnicity.

Ellie Willis