Australians need to better understand the reality of detainees’ lives

In my career as a lawyer and advocate, I have supported detainees whose social justice cases — some of the worst in the country — outline extremely distressing and difficult journeys.

One resonant example is Yasir*, who sought protection in Australia in 2013 and has been in detention for 10 years. Like so many, Yasir was handcuffed and tortured in his country of exile, which left him with severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other health problems. This means that when he is restrained with handcuffs he experiences seizures due to a normal PTSD response to the abuse he endured — the abuse that led him to seek asylum in Australia. Like all Home Affairs detainees, Yasir was routinely and compulsorily handcuffed for transportation or medical appointments, against the urging of his doctors. He ultimately stopped receiving vital medical treatment so that he could avoid being unnecessarily restrained.

Yasir bravely stood up against this punitive practice for himself and others trapped in detention, with the assistance of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre and funding from Grata. He took on Border Force in court to demand the end of the traumatic and inhumane use of handcuffs and restraints against asylum seekers and refugees in detention. After a three-year legal battle, he recently settled the case and he is no longer handcuffed.

* Name has been changed to protect our client’s identity.

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