Golmohammadian Family In Immigration Detention In Darwin
The Territory, as I like to keep reminding you all, is an amazing place full of incredible people from all walks of life and from all over the world.
The week before last, I paid a visit to an Iranian refugee family who have been in immigration detention for almost eight years.
Reza Golmohammadian, his wife Mojgan, and their adult daughter Farnaz, (who’s 32), and son Ali, (who’s 21), are at the Mercure Hotel at the Darwin Airport. They’ve been there for almost a year.
Back in Iran, Reza worked in import-export and his wife was a travel agent. His daughter, then in her early 20s, worked at a dolphin park, and Ali was a schoolboy.
They are committed Christians, and they fled Iran in 2013 and spent years living in tents in immigration detention on Nauru.
They were finally granted genuine refugee status, and are now awaiting third country resettlement in Canada.
But with the global uncertainty due to the pandemic, it’s unclear when this will actually happen.
The family were brought to Darwin for medical attention on February 28 last year. They haven’t received much medical attention in that time, and they have been locked up for far too long.
As we’ve heard from many Australians who’ve been through it in the past year, it’s tough being cooped up in hotel room for two weeks doing COVID-19 quarantine. But this family have had that experience for almost a year, with no end in sight.
My constituent and their friend and advocate Lorna MacIntyre said:
"Their lives consist of eating, sleeping, and watching television with no activities, excursions, or visits allowed. The only time that they leave the facility is for limited medical appointments. As a result of this confinement, they are all feeling despondent and depressed."
Of course they are. This indefinite detention is not what we should be doing to people.
I met with Reza and his daughter Farnaz. She was in tears. She and her brother share a small room, and Ali is despondent, depressed, watching TV all day.
On Nauru, once the family were found to be genuine refugees and had a bit more freedom in the camp, Ali was part of the emergency response unit and was motivated – he had some responsibility, and some hope. Now, he’s been in what’s essentially isolation for a year.
Reza needs to see a dermatologist for a growing mark on his face and Farnaz needs a knee operation. It’s why they were brought to Darwin. But they still haven’t received the medical attention they were brought there for.
What also really struck me during my visit was that Serco haven’t had the common human decency to provide the parents Reza and Mogjan with a double bed. Their room has only a bunk bed.
Ali is 59 and has difficulties with his knee, so he can’t climb the ladder of the bunk. Instead, he’s sleeping on a mattress on the floor beside his wife, who sleeps on the bottom bunk.
That is something so basic. Is it really beyond Australia to be able to offer them, genuine refugees, that small courtesy? This sort of petty action is cruel and unnecessary.
Reza’s son Ali had his 13th birthday in detention on Nauru. He’s now just marked his 21st in a small room in Darwin. All of his teen years have been lost to indefinite detention.
It’s a terrible waste of a young person’s potential. But it’s not too late to give him a chance to live his life fully, contributing to a community.
"During these eight years, we’ve wasted our lives," Reza says.
The years are passing them by. Farnaz has been in detention since she was 24. She’s now 32. If she wants to have children, what options are there for her while she languishes in detention?
Ali wants to study engineering or IT but won’t be able to afford it. It’s been eight lost years. As their advocate Ms MacIntyre says, they are totally harmless and defenceless.
It is heartbreaking, Deputy Speaker. It is un-Australian.
And what’s worst is that is unnecessary to put this family through this treatment.
Reza is a proud and cultured man, the family is a Christian family. He’s gutted that Serco won’t treat them with respect.
Here’s another small example of an unnecessary cruelty. On their birthdays, they are supposed to receive a cake. It doesn’t sound like much, but in detention all you have to look forward to is food.
Farnaz turned 32 on December 28, but the Serco guards told her it was a public holiday, so she couldn’t have a cake.
This is such a small thing that would bring happiness to these detained people, and even that is taken away from them. We should all be ashamed of what’s being done in our names.
I’m deeply saddened by their treatment at the hands of the Australian Government.
I wrote to Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton about this case, asking that the family be permitted to attend a church service in Darwin for Christmas, as they had requested. That request was refused.
I also raised the issue of moving the family to community detention – it was ignored.
I again wrote to the minister following my visit with Reza and Farnaz, raising their treatment and noting the recent release of a number of refugees into community detention in Melbourne. I am yet to receive a response.
The family are hoping to go to Canada, where a group of Australian expats have raised $50,000 Canadian dollars to help them with resettlement.
I am in contact with the Canadian High Commission and I’m hopeful that we can progress their case.
We know it’s within the power of the Government to release this family – who, I remind you, have been found to be genuine refugees – into the community, as has been done in Melbourne and Brisbane.
The best short-term outcome would be to release them to live in an apartment while they get the medical treatment they need at the Royal Darwin Hospital, as they await clearance to go to Canada.
Reza has written to me telling me the family has seen the news of the men released:
"We know most of them either from Christmas Island or Nauru. All of the previous movements are either from Melbourne or Brisbane. We're afraid our voice is not being heard … We so much want to be outside after 11 months here."
I’m calling on the Government now to show some compassion and understanding. Release this family into community detention before their one-year anniversary in a Darwin hotel room at the end of this month.
Let us show them our humanity before it’s too late.