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The UN is reviewing the detention of a 'severely' ill refugee in Australia as calls grow for his release

By sbs , in News Australia , at August 9, 2021 Tags: , , ,

Australia news

The United Nations is set to review the detention of a severely ill refugee in Australia amid calls for him to be released into the community. 

Kaveh was brought to Australia from Manus Island under the now-repealed medevac laws in August 2019, where he has since been held in the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation facility. 

But concerns over his health are mounting, with the man, aged in his late 30s, currently hospitalised and barely able to eat due to his medical condition.   

Kaveh is being treated for gastrointestinal issues, with his body struggling to tolerate food after he took part in a month-long hunger strike protesting for his release, according to his lawyer.

Alison Battisson, who is acting on his behalf, wrote to the United Nations on 22 July to raise concerns about her client’s situation.

The United Nations’ Office of the Human Rights Commissioner responded the next day, saying it would consider the appeal.

It called for the refugee to be placed in “community detention” as an “interim measure”.

Ms Battisson said the UN’s prompt response speaks to the severity of Kaveh’s case and concerns for his wellbeing.

“The UN has recognised the severity of this situation,” she told SBS News. “This demonstrates that there are serious concerns about his life.” 

In the UN’s response to Ms Battisson’s letter, seen by SBS News, Human Rights Committee Special Rapporteurs Helene Tigroudja and Arif Bulkan said the case would be considered for review.

“The State party has been requested to place the author in community detention while his case is under consideration by the Committee, or until further notice,” the letter reads.

“This request does not imply that any decision has been reached on the substance of the matter under consideration.”   

Ms Battisson has received no response from the Australian government surrounding the UN’s correspondence.

A petition has also been launched pushing for Kaveh’s release into community detention, attracting some 13,000 signatures at the time of publication. 

Kaveh’s physical and mental health has deteriorated in detention over the past eight years, according to his lawyer.

While, to date, 940 people have been resettled from offshore detention to the United States, Kaveh withdrew from this process due to his health concerns. 

She said the fear of returning to a detention facility is adding to his emotional strain.

“We are now at the point where a grown man who should be in the prime of his life is at risk of death,” Ms Battisson said. 

“This is the accumulation of years of poor medical treatment for underlying issues and the impacts of detention on someone’s mental health.” 

In a surprise move, the federal government freed dozens of medevac detainees from hotels used as Alternative Places of Detention, in separate releases between last December and March this year.   

But there remain at least 134 transitory persons in immigration detention facilities or Alternative Places of Detention, as of 1 June 2021, according to government figures.

Of these, 63 individuals were brought to Australia under the repealed ‘Medevac Bill’.

SBS News has contacted the Department of Home Affairs for comment.

Last month, in response to a question on notice about the decision-making process for releasing refugees into the community, a Home Affairs spokesperson said: “The Department regularly reviews all individuals in immigration detention, including transitory persons, to identify cases that may be referred for Ministerial intervention consideration.”

Ms Battisson said the lack of “consistency” around these decisions was concerning. 

“This creates despair in itself.”

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