An Open Letter From Detention


A life sentence is a punishment worse than death, according to Sasikanthan Shanmugarayah, a refugee locked away as a security threat for over three years. Without a clear understanding of the reasons for his imprisonment and no appeal rights, he is suffering mentally and physically.

Fifty men and two women are detained indefinitely. Sasi is one of them. Fairfax today reported on the summary of reasons he received from the Independent Reviewer, Margaret Stone, for upholding his negative assessment. Stone's report does not elucidate the nature of the security threat he is said to pose.

Over the past two years, I have regularly counselled Sasi out of committing self-harm and suicide. Watching him struggle against hopelessness and self-loathing is challenging.

He has been in detention since December 2009. He is a Tamil and has been accused of being a member of the Tamil Tigers and participating in battles. He has been assessed by ASIO as being "likely to engage in acts prejudicial to Australia's security".

He has repeatedly stated that he was not a voluntary participant with the Tamil Tigers, but for six months as a 17 year old in 1999, was coerced into participating in activities that amounted to little more than cadet training that might take place at Scotch College in Melbourne today.

He has stated he did not participate in any battles, but that he was ordered to clean up battle sites and attend to wounded fighters. He explained that he left the area to pursue his studies in Colombo and continued to be harassed by Tamil Tigers. He left Sri Lanka in 2005.

Australia’s policy of keeping him in detention carries no logic. He is a refugee. He is accused of being "likely to engage in acts prejudicial to Australia's security". This allegation has not been tried and tested before a court, and is based on an unsigned report with allegations he refutes.

He has asked me to convey this letter to you.

Dear Australians


I am writing to you for your support to try and find a way to have me released from detention that seems ‘an endless road to freedom'.

To assist you to understand my situation, I will endeavour to summarise, what my life has been in detention.

At first I was assessed by ASIO as a "security risk" without them interviewing me. My lawyers have been working through this, with ASIO interviewing me. I believe extensive investigations had been made in Sri Lanka, but I did not receive any advice from ASIO about their findings.

On Thursday, 13 June 2013, the Government's Independent Reviewer of Adverse Security Assessments, Margaret Stone, advised me, that my case will be reviewed after 12 months, as I had not met the requirements for a clear security assessment.

In 2006, the UNHCR whilst in Indonesia assessed me to be a refugee, and in 2009 I was assessed to be a refugee by the Australian Government. In December 2009, I was one of the asylum seekers that was a passenger on the "Oceanic Viking", attempting to come to Australia. On 29 December 2009, I was granted a "Special Purpose Visa" by the Australian Immigration and flown to Christmas Island. The promise reads as follows:

"The Australian Government guarantees that if you are mandated as a refugee, or become mandated as a refugee, you will be resettled in Australia or another resettlement country. Since UNHCR has found you to be a refugee, you will be resettled within 4-6 weeks from the time you disembark the vessel. Australian officials will assist you to be resettled." Australian Embassy, Jakarta, 13 November 2009.

I have been in detention for three years and eight months. All these years, I have lived in the hope that the Australian Government will give me the opportunity to start a new life in Australia.

Whilst in detention I have been trying to improve my English to be an interpreter, in the hope that I would have good news, to start a new life in supporting myself and undertake further study in science, if given the opportunity. When I left Indonesia my beloved daughter was only nine months, now she is four years and six months.

Fellow Australians think that I am resilient, but at some stage, there is a breaking point. I might appear strong, but within I am beginning to crumble.

I want to be a proud citizen of Australia and to give my beloved daughter the opportunity to live in peace. I will use my skills for the benefit of Australia, a country that I have come to love, having met so many generous Australian citizens, and my fellow colleagues in detention. It is your support that has given me hope to live, and believe that one day I will have freedom.

Yours truly,

New Matilda

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