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Meet Najeeb: The unheard refugee

Najeeb+Hussain%2C+an+image+from+his+Facebbook+page+dated+2015
Najeeb Hussain, an image from his Facebbook page dated 2015

Najeeb Hussain, an image from his Facebbook page dated 2015

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Unknown photographer

Najeeb Hussain, an image from his Facebbook page dated 2015

Yoshitaa Thadhani, Reporter

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Stories of people seeking refuge from worn-torn countries, crossing borders with babies and then languishing in detention centres are all too frequent in the Australian media. But who are these people? Najeeb Hussain is one of them. He reached out to us.

Hussain is unfortunate in that he not only bares witness to displacement and detention, but he’s experiencing it himself.

In many ways he is just an ordinary guy. A scroll through his Facebook page shows him to be a gym fanatic, who like birds of prey, hiphop and movies like Rambo and Terminator.

Now a seasoned detainee, a few years ago he was a private school teacher who fled Parachinar in Pakistan back in June 2013 after the school he worked for was targeted by terrorists.

Along with fellow staff members, he was named in a threatening letter. Traveling from Parachinar to Peshawar for four hours Hussain said: “I felt it was more than 12 hours, as I was scared every single minute.”

He said Shia Muslims like himself were often killed on this route to refuge, however, this was the only way he felt he could be safe.

According to a chart on the Refugee Council of Australia‘s website, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIPB) recorded that as of February 28, 2018, there were 1337 people in detention and 1253 of them were male.

In July 2016, a Commonwealth Ombudsman’s report on long-term immigration detention reported that 42 people had been detained for five years or more and that they were unlikely to be released.

Hussain has spent the last five years in detention, mostly at Yongah Hill in Northam (about an hour’s drive from Perth), but despite this he hopes one day to obtain a visa and to get out of detention.

He’d like a job, and to go to some gigs and to hang out with his friends. He misses them.

He is scared that he will be sent back to Pakistan and that if that happens he could be accused of treason for seeking asylum, and in Pakistan treason in is punishable by death.

According to an Amnesty International Death Sentencing and Executions report, in 2016 the execution rate dropped by 73% in Pakistan, however, there were still over 87 recorded executions that year.

On October 25, 2016, Hussain received a letter via email from the Australian Human Rights Commission in response to his complaints against the DIBP.

The letter states that the Commonwealth Ombudsman exercised his rights when he recommended that the minister considered giving priority to Hussain’s immigration status and consider granting him a bridging visa or community detention, while he waits for his immigration status. The letter said the ombudsman advised the minister of his concerns about Hussain’s mental health arising from prolonged detention.

The letter gave him hope – “the best feeling I had”.

It prompted him to apply again for a temporary Protection Visa. On February 22, 2018, he received a letter saying that his application had been knocked back. He was so “sad and angry” that he launched into a hunger strike and hit his head against some glass.

He said this resulted in Serco guards putting him in the “slot room” [solitary confinement] where he claims to have spent six days without food or water.

He described the solitary room as “like hell. There is no bed or anything. You can’t see anything from inside, and you drank water from [the] toilet tap and [it] is really cold, and they can see you when you shower or use toilet.”

After that a nurse was called who examined him, took a blood sample and took him to Northam Hospital, and an ambulance then took him the Perth to St John of God Hospital.

In hospital he rejected fluids and medication because he”was tired of being in detention”. He told us that he stayed on his hunger strike for 16 days, until immigration offered to settle him in other countries, but he rejected the offer, saying he’s spent five years here and he sees no reason to move elsewhere.

After an emotional phone conversation with his mother, he decided to start eating again. He said he only agreed to eat because he was told that after a few weeks in Brisbane Hospital where he could regain his strength that he would either be sent to the “Melbourne Community” or obtain a bridging visa.

After his recovery, Serco guards cuffed him and took him to a Detention Centre in Melbourne, where he is now and will stay for the foreseeable future.

How does he feel about this?

In his words:

“I just wana you know I lost everything, I’m so tired of the feeling I have, and if they lie to me again I’ll start hunger strike again. So make sure you know’s what’s going on around me, thanks for read my long message.”

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Meet Najeeb: The unheard refugee