Threatened with rape: Family of dead refugee lifts lid on WA detention centre

The Yongah Hills Immigration Detention Centre. Photo: Rebecca Le May
The Yongah Hills Immigration Detention Centre. Photo: Rebecca Le May

The family of an Iraqi national who killed himself while held in a WA detention centre say he was told he would be "raped if he didn't behave" and have indicated they intend to sue the Department of Immigration over his death.

Saruuan Aljhelie, 22, attempted suicide while detained at Yongah Hill Immigration Detention Centre on Sunday, September 2, sparking a riot among detainees that has left much of the facility destroyed.

He was resucitated at the scene and taken to Northam Hospital in a critical condition.

While the riot raged Mr Aljhelie was transported to Royal Perth Hospital where his condition was deemed serious.

Mr Aljhelie failed to regain consciousness since his attempt and was considered brain dead.

His life support was turned off last Wednesday, and he passed away with family by his side.

According to Mr Aljhelie's older brother Fadhee, his brother had been "brutally" treated while detained at the Northam facility.

"At Yongah Hill my brother was treated as less than human, he was mocked, threatened and abused by guards," he said.

"My brother attempted suicide and guards mocked my brother that he was never going to die, that he was not serious.

"My brother said this to both me and to my sister.

“A guard said to my brother that if he didn’t behave that he would be raped, that someone would sexually assault him.

"What sort of place is this, what sort of people are these?

“It is too late for my brother to be helped but my family want answers and justice."

Mr Alhjhelie is survived by two children, and a report regarding the circumstances of his death will prepared for the coroner.

"My brother was a young father with three children who are now without a father," Fadhee said.

“My brother needed support and not maltreatment, not brutality.

"Without any notice to our family my brother was without explanation taken by immigration from Villawood detention centre in Sydney to Yongah Hill outside of Perth, far away from the support of family.”

"My family are devastated."

When WAtoday put Fadhee's list of claims to the Australian Border Force, a spokesperson directed back to a media release from last Thursday.

"A male detainee from Yongah Hill Detention Centre who was admitted to hospital on Sunday has died," the statement reads.

"We express our condolences to his family and friends.

"The matter will be referred to the state coroner for investigation. The Department and Australian Border Force will provide all necessary assistance to the investigation."

It's understood the above statement was not sent out to media outlets and was instead posted directly to the news release section of the ABF's website.

The National Migrant Youth Support Service (NMYSS) has been supporting in Perth the Sydney based family of Saruuan, and said they will help the family in their plans to sue the Australian government over Mr Alhjhelie's death.

It's understood Sydney-based barrister Rick Mitry will represent the family in their case.

Refugees who were previously detained at the Yongah Hill facility will be transported to Christmas Island, with 25 of the 54 rooms still standing currently condemned.

NMYSS national coordinator Gerry Georgatos said what was left of Yongah Hill should be permanently closed.

"What’s left of Yongah Hill is now a powder keg," he said.

"It must be immediately closed down and the detainees who by any moral propriety are wrongly incarcerated should be released and availed to intense clinical and psychosocial supports.

"Saruuan’s young life has ended, at least half a century of potential life years taken from him but it is imperative that our government is sued, that in his memory, his legacy others are saved."

If you are experiencing mental health issues contact LifeLine WA on 13 11 14.