• 14 MAR 19
    • 0
    45 Days on Christmas Island

    45 Days on Christmas Island

    I was detained on Christmas Island in 2010 for 45 days. I came from Pakistan where I lived most of my life after my family and I fled civil war in Afghanistan.

    As a young Hazara man, I was then persecuted by state-funded terrorist groups and a religious portion of the community. My political views and philosophy of life evolved put my safety under great threat and ultimately caused me to leave Pakistan.

    I was then on a boat for almost nine days from Indonesia before a Navy ship intersected us.

    In seeking safety, I needed a country that was a signatory to the United Nations’ Human Rights Convention and Australia already had granted safety to people from the Hazara community. It was the closest country with both these things, and had I been closer to Canada, I would have gone there.

    Christmas Island Detention Centre, a “prison” 2,600 km’s from the nearest Australian capital city, Perth.

    I was then on a boat for almost nine days from Indonesia before a Navy ship intersected us. There was not enough food or water for all of us during this time, and it was another six days before the Navy took us to dry land.

    After 15 days at sea, one of which we almost drowned due to the heavy weather conditions and an unsafe boat, we arrived on  Christmas Island, some 2000 km’s from Broome. It felt really good to be on solid land but soon we realised that we were incarcerated and not safe at all. It was a prison.

    There were guards everywhere and you were being watched 24/7 with no privacy to grieve, cry, enjoy solitude, or to relax.

    It was particularly damaging for the children and women who also lived in shared rooms, with shared toilets and showers. There were no locks to protect women, particularly when it was crowded. It was not safe for them at all.

    The children found it the hardest, as they couldn’t understand why they were imprisoned and felt the anxiety and vulnerability of their parents. There were no activities for the children, or the adults. No work or anything to occupy people, only waiting without any certainty.

    It felt really good to be on solid land but soon we realised that we were incarcerated and not safe at all. It was a prison.

    Christmas Island Detention Centre is not much different to the conditions on Manus or Nauru. There were not enough health professionals for all the people detained and the small number of locals who live there also flew to the mainland for any specialist care.

    There were no specialist health services at all, including much needed psychologists and psychiatrists, which was a large problem for urgent needs as the closest mainland city, Perth, was a five hour flight away.

    Christmas Island facilities, photo credit ABC News.

    I personally experienced four days of delays to be transferred to Perth due to technical issues with the aircraft at the time. The airport is not big enough to function for emergencies and there wasn’t the technical expertise to address aircraft issues in fast manner.

    It’s understandable that the locals were also resistant to having a large prison on the island with people unfairly and inhumanely detained. They were obviously frustrated and hostile, and I’m sure they too knew it was a source of pain and unfairness.

    This is my experience from 45 days detained on Christmas Island.

    It is why I ask the Australian people to understand what it means for the Australian government to return to past inhumane practices and re-open the detention centre. It is from the public that policy will follow, and the government will listen.

    I strongly condemn the reopening of the facilities and hope the Australian community don’t stand for it.

    To send sick men and women from Manus and Nauru to Christmas Island Detention Centre and place them in an unsafe and damaging prison environment is irresponsible policy. I strongly condemn the reopening of the facilities and hope the Australian community don’t stand for it.

    Sick people on Manus and Nauru have been detained by the Australian government for six years. I cannot imagine how vulnerable they are, and how much trauma and suffering they have survived.

    People will continue to deteriorate if they are detained for any second longer offshore, whether that be on Christmas Island or further. And as doctors have warned repeatedly, another person will die from medical neglect if people are not medevaced to Australian hospitals directly.

    I ask Australian people to hear this call and not accept anything less.

    Alyas Taqawi 

    A Brisbane based community development professional who sought asylum in Australia in 2010. He has held a number of community leadership roles furthering workers rights and social justice.

    As a Hazara born in Afghanistan, he and his family moved to Pakistan when he was six years old. Alyas lived for most of his life in Quetta, a small town in Pakistan, which he again had to flee due to extreme violence and terror that the Hazara people faced.

    Leave a reply →