Vale Saeed Hassanloo

by Graeme Swincer, 29 August 2016
Today I got the tragic news that a young man who used to call me “father” had taken his own life. A refugee from persecution and torture in Iran, he arrived at Christmas Island in November 2010, already psychologically and physically scarred by his experiences.

A dishonest and unprofessional determination process ensured his asylum claims were not accepted. He was released from detention in January 2012, and found a level of happiness and healing in the community in Melbourne. But a few months later a scurrilous complaint resulted in a serious charge and return to detention. He maintained that he was completely innocent and a year later the charge was dropped through lack of evidence. But there was no immediate release. He was moved from one detention centre to another, a total of 6. All the time he had to try to live down the reputation that went with the original charge. He was treated by officers and fellow detainees as though the exoneration had not been given.

This was punitive detention with a vengeance and he called me at least twice a week pleading for help to get him out. He was clearly deteriorating mentally. By March 2015 he had had enough, and stopped eating and drinking. It was not a protest; just a way of escaping from his anguish. After 7 weeks he was on the verge of death in the Perth General Hospital. But he started to eat and drink again when he learned of the public support for his cause.

Soon afterwards he was released from detention with a bridging visa and then invited to apply for a protection visa, after more than 4 years of repeated rejections. No apologies for getting it wrong from the beginning. But, in spite of good support, he found the challenges of re-entry into Australian society very demanding. His mental health deteriorated and he died alone in Hobart.

He was 27. Saeed Hassanloo, my son, we grieve for you. And we cannot help being perplexed and angry at a system, a government, an electorate, that implements the cruel and senseless policies that destroyed you.

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