Farewell to Fari­borz: Aus­tralian burial for refugee who killed him­self on Nauru

The Guardian Australia - - Headlines - He­len David­son and Saba Vasefi

Last Fri­day rel­a­tives of Fari­borz Karami fi­nally said good­bye to the 26-year-old, an ath­letic and in­tel­li­gent den­tistry stu­dent who had mar­ried just a short time be­fore tak­ing his life in­side a tent on Nauru.

It had been more than three months since he died, and many years since doc­tors first raised con­cerns about his men­tal health with im­mi­gra­tion de­ten­tion au­thor­i­ties.

At Mount Gra­vatt ceme­tery in Bris­bane, friends and rel­a­tives ofKarami gath­ered un­der a small mar­quee, tak­ing turns to kiss and em­brace a white cof­fin adorned with sil­ver han­dles, red roses rest­ing on its lid.

“I never thought the rub­ble of cold soil would separate us from each other,” one rel­a­tive who could not be named told Guardian Aus­tralia. “He was the only man who sup­ported me in my life. But how could he leave me alone with my deep wounds?”

Be­fore Karami died, his mother begged for help for both her sons, and con­tin­ued to ad­vo­cate for her youngest son after Karami was gone.

“Of­ten, I told you and I wrote to you that my sons are de­pressed and ex­hausted ‘please help a sick and fee­ble mother’,” she wrote to Aus­tralian Bor­der Force. “But, in­stead of sup­port, you replied that if I couldn’t tol­er­ate it, I should re­turn to my coun­try.”

Bor­der Force long in­sisted that Karami could only be buried in Nauru or Iran, at the fam­ily’s cost. The home af­fairs de­part­ment re­ferred me­dia queries to Nauru’s govern­ment.

The of­fi­cial de­ten­tion cen­tre ar­range­ments be­tween Aus­tralia and Nauru, newly ob­tained by Guardian Aus­tralia, re­veal that it is en­shrined in their con­tract that asy­lum seek­ers and refugees who die on Nauru will re­ceive no Aus­tralian as­sis­tance ex­cept in con­sid­er­a­tion of “ex­cep­tional” re­quests.

“Burial or other fu­ner­ary prac­tices for trans­fer­ees will oc­cur in Nauru un­less al­ter­na­tive ar­range­ments are made by the de­ceased’s fam­ily,” it said. “Fi­nan­cial sup­port will not be pro­vided to the fam­ily by the Aus­tralian govern­ment for repa­tri­a­tion of the de­ceased.”

In Nauru Karami’s mother pushed for a fu­neral in Bris­bane. That way, she said, at least other rel­a­tives could visit her son’s grave. She could not re­turn to Iran for fear of per­se­cu­tion, and Nauru’s tem­po­rary of­fer of refuge meant she would one day have to leave.

More than a month after he died Karami’s body was flown to Queens­land. The cost of that flight as well as Fri­day’s fu­neral were cov­ered by un­named phi­lan­thropists.

Karami was the 12th per­son to die in Aus­tralia’s off­shore de­ten­tion regime. Many more have come close, ei­ther through ill­ness or sui­cide. A grow­ing cri­sis in men­tal health on both Manus Is­land and Nauru is caus­ing fear and panic among doc­tors and refugee ad­vo­cates.

There are in­creas­ing re­ports from is­land sources that au­thor­i­ties are threat­en­ing to ar­rest any­one who at­tempts sui­cide, and on Satur­day the Nau­ruan govern­ment or­dered one of the only or­gan­i­sa­tions pro­vid­ing men­tal health care, Médecins Sans Fron­tières, to leave the is­land.

Dozens of peo­ple are be­ing brought to Aus­tralia un­der court-or­dered med­i­cal trans­fers, re­sisted by both the Aus­tralian and Nau­ruan govern­ments. But Nau­ruan govern­ment of­fi­cials – who are not un­der the ju­ris­dic­tion of Aus­tralia’s fed­eral court – have be­gun dis­miss­ing the or­ders and the med­i­cal ad­vice that prompted them, re­fus­ing to al­low air am­bu­lances to land.

• In Aus­tralia, the cri­sis sup­port ser­vice Life­line is on 13 11 14. In the UK Sa­mar­i­tans can be con­tacted on 116 123. In the US, the Na­tional Sui­cide Preven­tion Life­line is 1-800-273-8255. Other in­ter­na­tional sui­cide helplines can be found at www.be­frien­ders.org

The fu­neral of Fari­borz Karami, who killed him­self on Nauru

The fu­neral in Bris­bane last week

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