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Young man burned by Australia's detention hell

  • 26 September 2016


In the early hours of Wednesday morning, 21 September 2016, a young asylum seeker was forcibly removed from the Maribyrnong Immigration Detention Centre (MIDC) in Victoria — with little notice, and no opportunity to say goodbye to friends or to let them know what was happening or where he was going.

With barely time to scramble his possessions together, he was taken away, placed on a plane and, along with four others, transferred to the high security detention facility on Christmas Island — one of the island hellholes we Australians use to warehouse our unwelcome refugees and asylum seekers. Why? Because he's done something wrong? Because he's a criminal? No. Just because that's the way we now do things here.

I have met with this remarkable young man on a weekly basis for the last year as a visitor to the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation (MITA) centre in Broadmeadows. I have come to know him well, and I can tell you this: he is solid gold.

He is, to put it quite simply, one of the kindest souls you could hope to encounter. I've had many conversations with him over the past year and, despite his own deep difficulties, they have all invariably circled around his love and care and concern for others: his family, his friends, his country, and ours.

In that pressure-cooker environment of the detention centre, he has kept his calm and helped to instil it in others. His is a peaceful, gentle presence. He is young in years, but has a composure, wisdom and grace about him that makes him seem much older.

He has spent the endless time in detention — time that could understandably be lost and wasted in despair and self-pity — mentoring and supporting those detained with him. A former roommate at MITA has described him to a friend as 'being like a father' to him.

He is also a gifted artist. He participated in a little art exhibition organised early this year for a small group of artists from MITA and he produced some of the most powerful and poignant images of the show.

He was also pivotal in encouraging the others to rise above the deadening apathy and despair detention breeds to produce some wonderfully creative work. He was not granted permission to attend — none of them were — but his spirit permeated the whole exhibition.


"My friend sailed straight into our cruel practice of indefinite detention,