Deathscapes

Perpetual Insecurity 9b - Contact with Authorities

Deathscapes

The Spectre of ‘Contact with Authorities’

People without ‘lawful’ immigration status (referred to by the State as ‘unlawful non-citizens’) naturally fear contact with police or immigration authorities as they are at risk of being detained and deported. This is also true for people with precarious immigration status. There are multiple cases of people dying while trying to evade authorities or suiciding following contact with authorities:

Seong Ho Kang was a man from Korea whose visa had expired. When two immigration officers arrived at his doorstep he ran towards the road, stumbled and was hit by a taxi.

Wah Aun Chan, a man from Malaysia, similarly was without a valid visa when he was stopped by police for a random breath test. Following an altercation with police he was capsicum sprayed and attempted to run away towards the River Murray Cliff face. Days later his body was found at the bottom of the cliff.

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Hock An Ong was another man from Malaysia who was without a valid visa when police and immigration authorities raided the orchard where he was working. As he attempted to flee he suddenly collapsed and suffered a heart attack.

Rezene Mebrahta Engeda, a thirty-five year old asylum seeker from Eritrea, knew the implications of a letter calling him into a meeting at the Immigration Department office. He did not make it to the meeting and later that week his body was found in the Maribyrnong River. He was not the first young Black man to drown in that river. Michael Atakelt who arrived in Australia in 2006, was last seen on 26 June 2011 following his release from a police lock-up. His body was found in the river on 7 July 2011. Further details can be found in the Inquest findings available in English and Tigrinya .

Khodayar Amini and Raza Rezayee both had encounters with the police prior to their deaths. Both men would have been acutely aware that these encounters could result in the cancellation of their visas and re-detention.

The death in detention of Fazel Chegeni Nejad (discussed below), a refugee denied a visa on ‘character’ grounds after being briefly released into the community, is a memory that haunts people who do not have permanent status.


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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are respectfully advised that this website contains images of and references to deceased persons.

All viewers are respectfully advised that the site contains images of and references to the deaths in custody of Indigenous peoples, Black people and refugees that may cause distress.

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