By Refugee Action Coalition Sydney
Three Hazara asylum seekers who were tortured and beaten unconscious by guards at the end of February after attempting to escape the Pontianak detention centre in West Kalimantan, Indonesia, have been refusing food since the night of Wednesday 18th April.
Mark Goudkamp from the Refugee Action Coalition and Ridwan Bakar from the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI) visited the traumatised men in Pontianak’s St Augustus hospital on April 16.
Goudkamp said: “On February 28, six Hazaras escaped through the roof of their room detention centre, which is partially funded by the Australian government.
“One of the men, Taki Nakoyee, was beaten to death after he was recaptured. More than ten guards beat him with wood, burnt him with cigarettes, whipped him with cables, and gave him electric shocks. The three witnesses to the killing were also tortured and beaten by the guards.”
Detainees inside Pontianak’s “Rumah Detensi Imigrasi” told Goudkamp that they’d heard the screaming for 2 to 3 hours from about 2am on the night the men were re-captured.
Two other Hazara escapees caught after Mr Nakoyee had been murdered, were stripped and forced to sleep naked on the floor of an isolation cell.
The other three Hazara escapees weren’t so lucky. They are slowly recovering in hospital, but Mohammed still has two broken ankles and a large cut across his scalp. Ali has an enormous gash along his left arm which required surgery. Abdul had black eyes, and badly injured ribs and legs
The five men are currently held at the Merpati Hotel.
“Ten low level guards charged with killing Mr Nakoyee are now behind bars in a neighbouring city awaiting trial,” said Goudkamp, “Yet detainees told me they believe that the problem goes much higher. ‘We pleaded with the head of the centre, Ageng Pribadi to tell his staff that we were asylum seekers, not criminals, but nothing changed.’ “
“Abdul, Ali, and Mohammed, already traumatised as a result of being tortured alongside Mr Nakoyee and seeing him die, are now terrified of recriminations for giving evidence against the guards.
“Desperate for Australia to process their refugee claims as soon as possible, they are continuing their hunger strike. It’s actually very worrying because their bodies are only just recovering from their beatings.
“The local UNHCR has recommended that Indonesian immigration immediately transfer them to Jakarta and to submit their cases to be Australian embassy, but so far there has been no response,” said Goudkamp.
To prevent further tragedy, the Australian government needs to act swiftly to process the men’s claims and ensure their future safety. Last Monday night, a message from the strikers said, “We think we have to continou (sic) strike with no eating and drinking. We are the real sacrification (sic) of this cruel action…We humbly want humanitarian help of Australia people and Australia (sic) state. Please don’t put us alone here.”
“Taki Nakoyee’s killing dramatically shows that Hazara asylum seekers are not safe in Indonesia. Australia is pushing the Indonesian government to detain and warehouse asylum seekers in Indonesia,” said Ian Rintoul, from the Refugee Action Coalition.
“There are now 996 desperate people (924 asylum seekers and 72 UNHCR refugees) in just 12 identified detention centres scattered across the Indonesian archipelago.
“The Australian government and opposition both feign concern about asylum seekers’ losing their lives at sea. Yet the death of Taki and the brutal bashing of three others reveals the fact that there is no security for asylum seekers in Indonesia. To get to safety, asylum seekers have to get on boats to get to Australia.
“Australia should be committed to re-settling all UNHCR recognised refugees in Indonesia. Yet according to UNHCR Indonesia’s latest factsheet, Australia has taken just 17 in the first three months of this year.
For further comment, in Australia call Mark Goudkamp on +61 422 078 376 , Ian Rintoul on +61 417 275 713 . In Indonesia, Ridwan Bakar ( Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI) on +62 8 138 854 4332