Refugee's death 'a devastating blow to his family'

LIKE many boat people arriving in Australia, Meqdad Hussain's family had sent him to Australia in the hope he could provide support to his family.

He was born in Afghanistan but his father went missing there when he was about 10 years old.

His stepmother raised him for most of his life in Quetta, Pakistan.

Meqdad flew to Malaysia in later September, 2010, where he stayed for 15 days.

He then travelled to Indonesia where, after 25 days, he boarded a barely seaworthy boat with 41 other people set off hoping to reach Australia.

Australian customs officers intercepted the vessel 12nm north of Ashmore Island and took them to Christmas Island in November, 2010.

But the immigration facility was nearing capacity and 87 men, mostly Afghanis, were transferred to the Scherger air force base near Weipa in north-western Queensland.

Other detainees described him as quiet, shy and polite; always respectful.

No one knew of anyone who had a problem with him or might have a motive to harm him.

The few friends he made expressed surprise and shock when they discovered he had taken his own life.

State Coroner Michael Barnes, in his inquest findings handed down on Monday, said Meqdad's death was a devastating blow to his family and he was "very much missed".

He concluded Meqdad died by hanging himself with bed sheets from the rail of his bunk bed on March 17, 2011, and no other person contributed to his death.

Mr Barnes said Meqdad could not have known he was denied refugee status in Canberra the day before because his case manager did not know and he would be the first informed.

He said assessments about Meqdad's likelihood of self-harm relied on his own admissions but cuts to his arm should have resulted in detailed notes for not taking the matter further.

But Mr Barnes said there was nothing about Meqdad's demeanour or behaviour which warranted concern at the detention centre.

"His death at his own hand was a surprise to everyone there and was not reasonably foreseeable," he said.

Mr Barnes said the Australian immigration department had recognised detainees were a "vulnerable population" and the ad hoc immigration processing system exacerbated the risks.

He said the government was already implementing recommendations from a 2011 inquiry and he would not make further suggestions.


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