‘They grabbed my arms’: The sick refugee deported by Australia

Refugee says he was forced onto a plane with hardened criminals and sent back to a country he’d fled in fear of his life.

A sketch shows two enforcement officers grabbing 'Hector' by the arms and leading him away
[Zoe Osborne/Al Jazeera]

Hector (whose name has been changed for his safety) was deported from Australian immigration detention last year and sent back to the country he fled in fear of his life.

He was given 1,000 Australian dollars ($715), a few weeks of hotel accommodation and three weeks of the medication he needs to stay alive.

He told Al Jazeera what happened in his own words.

The interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Hector’s story:

The first time they tried to deport me was in 2019.

I had come to Australia by boat six years before because my life was under threat back home.

I asked for protection and they basically just abused me over and over.

Look – we belong to them. They do anything they want. Just to prove a point. That’s the way it works.

They beat people there to prove a point to others.

Even people are dying inside and nobody knows. Nobody cares. Just two, three things in the media, nothing more.

I developed depression in detention, and then got a rare disease called Addison’s disease because of the major depression I had been going through – my body doesn’t produce hormones any more.

I lost 27 kilograms and people left me behind because they thought I was playing games – that I didn’t want to eat.

Nobody knew about my disease at the time.

Nobody checked me.

‘They beat me up’

In 2019, I was in hospital for three months for depression and PTSD and a week after I was discharged, the authorities tried to force me onto a public aeroplane.

I stood up in the chair of the aeroplane and three officers beat me up to try to put me down.

The passengers told them “we don’t care if it’s your job, don’t touch him” and then the pilot came and told them to take me off the flight.

I was badly injured in my leg and ribs, but they put me in a cell in the detention centre and they didn’t provide me with a doctor because they didn’t want to record the incident.

They have cells, special cells, if somebody doesn’t obey, they put them there like a punishment.

Eventually, I was taken back to the main centre.

Time passed.

They moved me from Melbourne to Sydney to take me away from my doctor, all my friends, girlfriend, support and everyone, they sent me there, to break me down more.

Then from early 2020 until December 2020, I was in Sydney. I nearly died there, my story was in the media, all over the place.

They put a nurse in my room at nighttime for three, four months to look after me and check whether I am breathing or not.

They brought me back to Melbourne in January 2021 and later that year I was finally diagnosed with Addison’s disease.

I started ongoing treatment for depression every month. I was in a Melbourne clinic, the psych hospital.

I was really sick.

‘I thought I was in a nightmare’

Then they stopped everything.

I think it was a Saturday when my lawyer called me and she said: “Listen, I am shocked and surprised, but they want to deport you.”

I couldn’t believe it. I thought I was in a nightmare.

On Tuesday, the government just took me, they ignored the United Nations, they ignored everyone, even my guardian.

Eight security guards came, they are the security guards for troublemakers and I’ve never been a troublemaker.

I was out sitting in a chair with crutches there, out of my room having a coffee, and I asked them “Can I go into my room, pack my stuff?” They said, “No, no, no.”

Can I call my lawyer?


They didn’t give me any rights.

I said okay, because if I refused I knew they would beat me up again.

They grabbed me by my arms and we walked to the offices. There was a Border Force Officer and he said to me: “Today you are going to be deported.”

After that, they put me in the jet. I was there with the criminals, the 501s [people who have had their visas cancelled on character grounds] who were all handcuffed, and they flew me back to my country.

‘I am like a human without a soul’

They dropped me there and the police came and got me, to interview me about why I went to Australia. And then they just left me in the street.

I had two or three weeks’ accommodation, three weeks of medication and 1,000 Australian dollars ($715) in my pocket, all paid by the Australian government.

I was 48kg, walking with crutches.

I didn’t go to the hotel that the Australian government had paid for me because there was no service there and I was not able to walk properly, I didn’t have energy, I needed help.

My friends from Melbourne went to the internet and they found me a home with people who can help. They pay for a room for me at the moment.

I stopped all my medication because I can’t afford to buy it.

There is no specialist for my disease at all here.

I hope this story will help somebody else because for me, I am gone. I exist today, I don’t know what will happen tomorrow.

I am like a human without a soul, nothing hurts me any more.


The Australian government’s response

Al Jazeera contacted the Australian Border Force (ABF) and the Department of Home Affairs about Hector’s story.

In response, a spokesperson from the ABF said that “the Australian Border Force (ABF) does not comment on individual cases.”

“The Department welcomes the scrutiny from, and continues to engage with oversight and monitoring bodies to ensure detainees held in immigration detention are treated humanely and fairly.”

“The priority for the ABF is the health and safety of all detainees and staff,” they said, and “appropriate monitoring, welfare and security arrangements are in place at all immigration detention facilities.”

“Healthcare services for detainees are broadly comparable with those available within the Australian community under the Australian public health system,” they added.

“The time an individual spends in immigration detention depends on a range of factors, including the complexity of their case, the legal processes they pursue and whether they voluntarily choose to leave Australia.”

“All detainees are able to raise complaints with the Department, contracted service providers and a number of external scrutiny bodies, including the police, regarding any aspect of their detention.”

“The Migration Act 1958 creates the statutory framework that regulates the entry and stay of non-citizens in Australia. Non-citizens without a valid visa who have exhausted all avenues to remain in Australia lawfully are expected to depart.

“Under the Migration Act, the ABF must remove an unlawful non-citizen as soon as reasonably practicable. This may be through voluntary or involuntary removal when the individual remains involuntary towards their removal. 

“Individuals removed from Australia are provided with post-removal support assessed on their individual circumstances.”

Source: Al Jazeera