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CURRENT CASE: Excessive force against refugees

Yasir* is bravely challenging Border Force for the harmful use of restraints which has been condemned by medical professionals and human rights experts.

In 2013, Yasir fled his country because he had no status as an ethnic minority and was constantly targeted by police and authorities. More than two decades earlier, he was deported from his country of birth with his family – and imprisoned as ‘enemies of the state’ for two years. Yasir was tortured by the prison guards as a child who kept him in handcuffs. He saw them do the same to his family and other prisoners.

Yasir says, “the things that happened in jail changed me forever. That nightmare continued when my family was deported to a neighbouring country. We stayed more than 10 years in a ‘Foreigners Detention Centre’ and suffered extreme poverty and violence there. I can’t even look at handcuffs without feeling like I’m going to have a seizure”.

Despite Yasir’s experience of torture with handcuffs at the hands of authorities Border Force require he and other people people locked in detention wear them in order to access medical care. For Yasir, this means he is unable to access the medical care he needs for fear of seizures if he is handcuffed. 

The Australian Human Rights Commission and Commonwealth Ombudsman have found that restraints are often misused against detained asylum seekers and can amount to excessive use of force.

Yasir fled to Australia in 2013 when the constant persecution made life impossible, he says became very sick mentally. Like many people seeking protection in Australia, he now knows he has PTSD. 

“When I arrived on Christmas Island and saw the guards and high fences, my first thought was “not again!”. For the past seven years in Australian immigration detention, I haven’t slept much because of the nightmares and I have constant traumatic flashbacks.”

“People are often surprised that many detained asylum seekers are handcuffed when going to and from off-site medical appointments, says Yasir. “I have asked many times for it to stop. Many doctors and counsellors have written reports saying that I should never be restrained like this because it is too re-triggering for me. I have made many complaints, but I have never been told why handcuffs are necessary, nor why there are times when I can go without restraints.”

Yasir is standing up against this harmful, punitive practice for himself and others trapped in detention. With the support of his expert lawyers at the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) and the financial backing of the Grata community, he is taking on Border Force in court. 

You can support Yasir stand against the continued misuse of handcuffs on vulnerable people locked in detention by donating here

*Yasir’s name has been changed to protect his privacy.

Case timeline

  • 23 November 2020 - filed at the Federal Court
  • Hearing date TBC