I’m in the middle of the visiting room in Broadmeadows Detention Centre. It’s loud, children running around. Families talking. There is music. But in a corner I see Frank. He is sitting alone, wearing a long, ripped, black robe. He is very sad. Hopeless. He looks at me, doesn’t say anything. And looks down.
“Hi Frank,” I smile at him. He looks up, sees me and stands.
“Hello, my bro. How are you?” he says.
Frank and I need a peaceful place.
“How are you?” I ask him.
I know what he will tell me. I can feel it; it’s not going to be easy.
“Something bad happened,” he says.
It gets tense. I see the chips on the table. I offer him some.
“Try these chips, they are my favourite.”
“No thanks, I can’t eat right now,” he says and looks down.
I gather the courage, as much as one part of me says I can’t hear this, but I ask him.
“I don’t think you want to know,” he says.
“Well. What can you do?” he says.
“I don’t know. I can listen,” I reply.
He looks at me and says, “It’s about Feroz.”
And everything I know about Feroz comes to me. Feroz is a 15-year-old minor. He took the treacherous journey from his country, to Malaysia – Indonesia – and after two boat attempts, one of which sank and he saw hundreds of people drown, but he tried again and came to Australia. I have spoken to him many times.
He is angry. He doesn’t understand why he is held in detention. Feroz has hurt himself many times. He has spent a lot of time in a room, similar to solitary confinement. He is banned from being alone. There is a guard that is always watching him. I know all this about him, but what happened now? I wonder.
“What has he done?” I ask Frank.
“We were eating dinner. Then Feroz said, ‘I want to go to my room.’
“I looked at him and he didn’t look very good, you know?”
“Yes, I understand,” I anxiously reply.
“So I said OK. I will come to your room after dinner,” Frank continues.
“He left, about an hour before I finished my dinner. I went to my room.
“I lay on my bed and then remembered – Feroz.”
He looks terrified as he tells me.
“So I got up and walked to his room,” he says.
“I knock on his door, silence.
“I knocked louder and called his name, nothing.
“I kneeled down and looked under his door and all I saw was red. The floor covered in blood.
“I screamed and pushed the door open.”
Frank found Feroz on his bed, his arm cut open. The floor covered in blood.
“I stopped. I couldn’t walk on his blood, but I had no choice,” he continues.
“My feet were covered in his blood.
“I started screaming, and people came from everywhere,” he says as he breaks into tears.
I don’t know what to say. I remain silent. Tears flowing.
“You know in my country, I see this everywhere,” Frank says.
“But we are in Australia, why is this happening here?”
Again, I’m silent. I want to say something, but I can’t. Control yourself, I tell myself and wipe my eyes dry.
“You know how he cut his arm?” he says, as he dries his eyes.
No, how? I ask.
“At the dinner, we had chicken curry and rice,” he explains.
“Feroz took the chicken leg, and he was eating it.
“He told me that he will go to his room, I didn’t think that he will do something,” he continues.
“He broke the drumstick, then start to cut his arm with the sharp bone.” Frank pieces the story together.
“How can a bone cut his arm?” I ask.
“I don’t know, but all I saw in his hand was half of a broken chicken leg, with blood,” he continues.
Frank remembers previous conversations where Feroz had said that he “wants to finish his life.”
“But I would tell him, ‘It’s OK, you are here in Australia, people are nice here and you can study, so don’t worry, you will be out soon’,” Frank said.
“But he didn’t believe me. Now he is alone in the hospital.”
“Ladies and gentleman the visiting hours are over,” the guard announces over the PA.
Former refugee Mustafa Nuristani regularly visits his friends at MITA. This is the second in a series of articles highlighting the plight of those held in indefinite detention.