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A final goodbye to Abdul, the latest man to die in Australian detention

Abdul Aziz, a 23-year-old Afghan asylum seeker, died in detention. Crikey was invited by his family and friends to exclusively bear witness before his body was sent home.

I’m relieved to see Abdul’s body. He’s in good nick, I think.

I had been worried about how he would look, as I agreed to video call his friends in Melbourne’s Immigration Transit Accommodation (MITA) during the prayer service*. They wanted to say goodbye.

Abdul Aziz, a 23-year-old Afghan asylum seeker, had died in detention eight days earlier, late on the evening of July 12. That’s the last time his friends had seen him; when he was wheeled into an ambulance and driven away through the multiple locked gates and high fences that surround the centre.

I had seen his feet in phone footage sent to me by others in detention the day after his death. Guards, then medical staff were attempting CPR and one of his friends — a fellow asylum seeker — told me his feet looked purple.

An autopsy was performed and his body was released to members of Melbourne’s Afghan community seven days later, on the next dark Friday night. He was taken to a funeral parlour inside an industrial park in the city’s south-east. This is where I see him.

Warning: the below video contains images of Abdul’s body.

Abdul arrived in Australia alone, an Afghan teenager seeking asylum in 2013, as a 17-year-old unaccompanied minor, via Pakistan and Indonesia.

Assessed as vulnerable young person, Abdul was released into the community. Lawyers told me that aged about 19, Abdul was convicted of car theft. Abdul subsequently served four months in a low-security facility and when his bridging visa was cancelled in 2017, he was put back into immigration detention.

Abdul hadn’t told his few friends in the community that he was in detention. One shows me screenshots of their conversations to prove it. “See? But he could have told me, I was put in detention when I first got here.”

Abdul’s friends in detention and his family tell me he thought he was going to get out soon.

Abdul’s body is being flown back to his parents and sisters, none of whom could afford to make the journey to retrieve him. This will be the first time Abdul’s mother has seen him in six years. The paperwork for his journey back notes “special handling — human remains”, instructions for his body to be dropped off at the freight terminal at Melbourne airport, and the weight of his coffin: 140kgs.

Abdul skyped his mother every day. He had called her in the hours before he died and said, “I have a weight on my chest”.

These calls were no small thing. Asylum seekers who arrived by boat were not allowed personal phones in Australia’s immigration detention centres until a court ruling last year. Before that Abdul made his way to a noisy shared computer room, patiently waiting his turn to call his mother. He did this every day, often multiple times.

The night after Abdul died, his uncle, Abdul Baseer, found me on Twitter. He was desperately trying to find out more information after members of the Afghan community contacted him worried it was Abdul who had died. He tweeted me saying “Ma’am, this boy is my nephew”.

He sent me pages of court documents. Abdul had always sent documents to his uncle for help translating and understanding what was happening with his case. Abdul’s uncle is not a lawyer. He told me he felt guilty for not always translating the emails straight away.

“I had a job, I was at work and he would send these long documents.”

I ask if it was confusing; if Abdul understood why he was still in a detention centre. “It killed him, he knew he shouldn’t be there, it crushed him,” his uncle says. “He was so worried about helping his parents who have nothing, they don’t even have the room for his coffin when it arrives.”

Inside and then outside the funeral parlour, men are praying. They’re sitting in a semi-circle in a car park performing the Salāt al-Janāzah, the Islamic funeral prayer. There is no official cause of death for Abdul. Autopsy results are expected this week. His family requested that an autopsy not be performed, but were told a partial one was done.

The Australian government placed one call to his family, four days after his death, to offer its condolences.

*Abdul’s family and the members of the community all consented to the filming of the prayers and Abdul’s body. They also consented for Abdul’s friends in detention to video call during the prayers because it was understood that the Australian government authorities (ABF and Serco) would not allow them to leave the detention centre to attend the prayers for Abdul.

For anyone seeking help, Lifeline is on 13 11 14 and Beyond Blue is 1300 22 4636.

Peter Fray

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Keith1
Keith1
1 year ago

‘Surely we belong to God, and to Him we return’

‘I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope…’

Cambo
Cambo
1 year ago

I’m both appalled and amazed at Scummo’s hypocrisy. What sort of a Christian would be proud of designing and implementing this policy? I hope there is a God and both Scummo and Dutton have to justify their earthly behaviour.

R. Ambrose Raven
R. Ambrose Raven
1 year ago
Reply to  Cambo

Fortunately Israel Folau has assured us that liars will Go To Hell.

fiscopius77
fiscopius77
1 year ago

I presume this story is about a suicide of Abdul being somehow the fault of the Australian Govt and all those who support immigration control.

Perhaps we should get the full story of Abdul’s life – start with the bit between 17 and 19 before his conviction.

What ‘support’ was provided by the Afghan community for a 17 year old before he turned to crime?

ratty
ratty
1 year ago
Reply to  fiscopius77

It is probably more pertinent to ask what support this vulnerable child had?
To turn to crime indicates a loss of hope or care.

Please rest in peace Abdul, and may your spirit find a kind and caring place, that obviously was not shown to you here.

At some stages of sadness, I hope for Dante’s circles of hell to be real, so that the “Christian Designer” of our immigration detention regime and his thick headed enforcer, may get to experience the true understanding of what they have put their fellow human beings through.

R. Ambrose Raven
R. Ambrose Raven
1 year ago
Reply to  fiscopius77

FYI the current Misgovernment does not support immigration control.

Read other Crikey articles. starting with:
. “The illegal immigrants our government is all too happy to overlook”
continuing with
“Reluctant government reveals chaos in a stacked AAT”,
“The stark reality of modern slavery in Australia”, and
“Migrant workers are overworked, intimidated and even killed on Australian farms”

Nor does it or you seem much interested in the white Australian racist who flew to NZ at his own expense, with papers, and later murdered FIFTY Kiwis with arms that he had a right to bear.

Dog's Breakfast
Dog's Breakfast
1 year ago

Heartless, pointless, cruel.

This is Australia.

Janno
Janno
1 year ago

How fortunate to live in a country at the bottom of the world where the worst invaders are cricket teams who thrash us. Not for us invasions over the centuries including – in Afghanistan’s recent history the Soviets, the Pakistan-government backed Taliban and the US-lead invasion where air strikes were famously indifferent to ‘enemies’ or civilian Afghans and the ground war was often the same. Our friend who died not there but here – clearly from a poor background – was one of millions escaping a hugely disrupted country. Same in Iraq, Syria, Libya et al. Australian history tells us most do remarkably well: they have to, after all they are expected to support both themselves and their families here or back home. Vale.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civilian_casualties_in_the_war_in_Afghanistan_(2001%E2%80%93present)