The full story behind the death of Fazel Chegeni, a Kurdish-Iranian refugee who died on Christmas Island last month, has today been revealed by The Guardian. It’s a gut-wrenching read, and a stark reality check on the torture being meted out within Australia’s Kafkaesque immigration regime.

Chegeni’s death was entirely predictable to the case workers and doctors who reviewed him and witnessed the steep decline in his mental health throughout his four years in immigration detention. Many of them pleaded with the then-immigration minister to intervene in his case — but Scott Morrison refused:

“His bulging departmental file shows that on at least a dozen occasions, immigration department officers suggested, requested, and finally pleaded, for senior management to intervene in the case of a man clearly headed for catastrophe.”

Chegeni’s body was found in bushland, two days after he escaped from the Christmas Island detention centre last month.

It’s clear the Turnbull government’s immigration system — deliberately — has no room for discretion. This is a system that to function actually relies on desperate people losing all hope and languishing for years in island prisons, subjecting them to the kind of mental torture and uncertainty that drove Chegeni — a man whose case for asylum had been accepted by the government, who had even been previously released into the community — to his death.

Many within the government argue that it’s exactly this hardline approach that has effectively “stopped the boats”. But how many are prepared to tell the truth: that the death of Chegeni, along with the murder of Reza Barati and the rape and abuse of women and children on Nauru, the limbo of those in permanent detention, are a price they are willing to pay to make that claim? And how many Australians are prepared to accept that?

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey