A REFUGEE rights group has staged a touching tribute to Fazel Chegeni Nejad on the first day of an inquest into his tragic death on Christmas Island in 2015.
The Kurd asylum seeker had been detained on the island for four years but was facing a lifetime in detention after being involved in a minor brawl; the conviction resulting in him failing a character test and any chance of getting an Australian VISA.
In desperation Mr Chegeni, 34, escaped from the centre and his body was found in bushland two days later.
Lawyer George Newhouse says the Australian government ignored warnings that Mr Chegeni’s mental health was deteriorating.
“Our government knows that victims of torture should not be locked up like animals, but they ignored the warnings and poor Fazel’s desperate pleas for mental health support.”
Mr Chegeni had said he was seeking asylum after being repeatedly tortured and raped in Iran.
The Refugee Rights Action Network gathered outside the WA coroner’s court in Perth on Monday with dozens of paper birds in memory of Mr Chegeni, who had spent countless hours making them to give to people in hospital.
RRAN member Michelle Bui says the best way to stop deaths in custody is to end mandatory detention.
“Fazel was not the first, nor the last person to die under the system of mandatory detention,” she says.
“We hope the coroner will carefully examine the systematic issues involved in his case.”
The inquest runs until August 10.
by MOLLY SCHMIDT