Man seeks damages over detention treatment (ABC News)

Man seeks damages over detention treatment
Loukas Founten, ABC News
November 30, 2012

An Iranian man is seeking damages from the Federal Government, claiming he was mistreated during his nearly five years in immigration detention.

William Khazraei, 43, was detained at the Port Hedland and Baxter immigration centres after his arrival in Australia in October 2000.

He is suing the Commonwealth and two companies which operated the detention centres.

Documents filed in the District Court in Adelaide said the man had suffered from depression, suicidal tendencies and an incurable skin condition since mistreatment in detention.

Mr Khazraei claimed staff verbally and physically abused him and denied him access to lawyers, medical staff and a means of communicating with his family.

He said the Commonwealth lacked effective strategies or adequate services to treat his mental illness.

“The plaintiff was subjected to verbal and physical abuse, threats and intimidation by detention centre staff and witnessed similar actions against other detainees,” the documents said.

“(The Commonwealth and its agents who operated the centres) ought to have known the plaintiff was suffering from psychiatric and/or psychological damage and several other detainees were also exhibiting symptoms of serious psychiatric and/or psychological damage. [They] ought to have know there were systematic deficiencies in the manner of operation of the detention centres that were creating an ongoing risk of injury to the plaintiff and other detainees.”

The statement alleged the man witnessed suicide attempts and hunger strikes.

“The failure by the defendants resulted in the plaintiff being detained in an environment which continuously placed his physical and mental health at risk,” it said.

“The plaintiff was detained with others suffering from mental health problems and witnessed others harming themselves and attempting suicide by cutting or hanging. He also took part in and witnessed hunger strikes.

“[Mr Khazraei] was isolated from the general population in an environment which was unsafe and unsuitable and which exacerbated his psychiatric and psychological damage.”

Claims contested

The Commonwealth is contesting the claim, saying Mr Khazrei had his skin condition and a history of depression prior to his arrival in Australia.

“In the plaintiff’s medical check in his application for an Australian visa, dated 24th of October 2000, it was noted the plaintiff had suffered depression and nervousness three years prior to his arrival in Australia because he’d been mistreated, distressed psychologically and had been mentally tortured in Iran,” its statement read.

“If the plaintiff suffered mental and physical damage as alleged, which is denied, then said damage was a result of pre-existing psychiatric or psychological conditions arising from psychological stressors prior to his arrival in Australia. Further, with respect to the plaintiff’s skin condition, vitiligo is incurable and is a progressive skin disorder and the plaintiff’s time in detention did not contribute to his condition.”

The case will return to court in February.

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