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The Tortuous Demise Of Hamed Shamshiripour, Who Didn't Deserve To Die On Manus Island

"Brother, when will we leave this island?" he asked me. I answered: "I don't know."

14/08/2017 12:15 PM AEST | Updated 14/08/2017 12:15 PM AEST
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Days after the death of Hamed Shamshiripour on Manus Island, friends and fellow asylum seekers held a vigil for the 31-year-old.

I knew Hamed Shamshiripour through music. He was inspired by music; he loved to play the guitar and write lyrics. On one occasion he rushed over to see me eager to share a new song. But, over time, Hamed the musician began to disappear, he was becoming a different person. His mental health was deteriorating rapidly.

The refugees woke me in the morning with the news "Someone killed Hamed today." These words totally crushed me.

I was reminded of the time I saw him a month ago, sitting on the main road in Lorengau town. He was weary and emaciated. He was delirious, but he recognised me and asked: "Brother, when will we leave this island?"

I answered: "I don't know."

He looked sternly and repeated with more intensity: "I asked you, when will we leave this island?"

And so I answered: "Very soon, we've already been here for four years. We'll be leaving very soon."

Then he smiled.

I found out that he died near the Transit Centre, which is a camp close to Lorengau town. It was particularly difficult for me as I knew him well, and I know the details of his story.

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Refugees and asylum seekers held a vigil for Hamed in Delta compound inside the detention centre.

During the period he was in Lombrum detention centre (RPC) he had an argument with a local Wilson guard. He notified the police who beat him in SAA (VSRA) -- the confinement room for sick people. They took him to the police station for a few days before sending him back to the detention centre. Upon his return IHMS injected him with a tranquiliser. A group of refugees wrote to IHMS about his mental health, clearly indicating that they had a duty of care toward him.

Back at the detention centre he had another argument with a VIHICKEY officer (a branch of Wilson). The officer was trying to force him to go to bed by pushing him into a room, but he resisted and pushed the officer back. As a result they sent him to court.

The court sentenced him to 36 days of prison because IHMS refused to confirm he had psychiatric problems. This is despite the fact that they had full knowledge of his condition. Therefore he was sent to the CIS jail (the Manus jail in Lorengau), after which they wanted to send him back to the detention centre. However, they could not find a room for Hamed and, due to his bizarre and disruptive behaviour toward other refugees, they transferred him to the East Lorengau camp.

In East Lorengau he continued his disruptive behaviour which began to develop into conflicts with other refugees. Everyone who encountered him in East Lorengau saw him to be a huge problem; the refugees were angry because he talked a lot and did not allow them to sleep. He also bothered local people and was causing trouble in the town. He sometimes stripped naked and walked out onto the main road in Lorengau only wearing boxer shorts.

Most of the time he was hungry and homeless. The small children mocked him and annoyed him. Some refugees, local people and police would beat him because of his mental health condition. Most would run away from him because of his behaviour.

After another incident with a Wilson guard a complaint was made against him for pushing back. Again they took him to police lockup, this time for about a week, and then again to CIS prison. He was there for a month.

Hamed's case is another example of Australia trying to shift its problems to PNG. Refugees in Manus Prison have been under systematic torture for a long time and find it hard to maintain hope. But instead of protecting them Australia has released them in Lorengau town without the necessary support.

Despite there not being any adequate facilities and protection in PNG the Australian Government wants to leave refugees to live on the island with trauma and among a local population who are antagonistic to their presence. It is obvious that this situation will create major problems for both refugees and the local people.

Also the police, as a security structure with a duty to keep society safe, have their own problems with the existence of refugees in the town. The system puts people in danger. Hamed was a refugee who needed psychological care. His situation was an example of how Australia neglects the needs and concerns of both the local people and refugees. Instead of providing medical treatment Australia abandoned him in Manus society where he created problems for locals, police, the court, other refugees and himself.

The Hamed I knew was a kind person, capable of being a creative musician and someone with the capacity to make a valuable contribution to society. He was worthy of respect and dignity. He didn't deserve to be neglected and abandoned the way he was.

Translator: Omid Tofighian, University of Sydney.

HuffPost Australia Contacted Wilson Security for comment and were told to contact the Department of Immigration, which in turn said to contact the PNG Government.

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