Wednesday, March 16, 2016

As a child on Nauru I was NR03-283, but my name is Mohammad Ali Baqiri

Mohammad Ali Baqiri The Guardian March 15, 2016

A Spanish company is poised to take over the running of Australia’s offshore detention centres and risks being associated with human rights abuses forever

Mohammad Ali Baqiri addresses school children about being in detention. Photograph: Jason Hill

NR03-283. That was the number they gave me, during the three years I spent in the Nauru detention camp. I was 13 when I left, and took back my name – Mohammad Ali Baqiri.

Now I’m 24, a proud Melburnian in the final semester of a degree in law and business. Today, I write as a survivor of Australia’s cruel offshore detention regime – just as a Spanish multinational, Ferrovial, stands poised to take over Broadspectrum Limited (formerly Transfield Services), and with it the multi-million dollar contract to keep the Nauru and Manus detention camps open.

No Business in Abuse, an organisation I’ve worked with before, wrote to Ferrovial in December 2015 requesting a meeting to discuss the human rights risks inherent in offshore detention. Ferrovial refused.

I’ve also now written to the company, asking them to meet me personally. It’s Ferrovial’s last chance before the takeover bid closes, potentially locking the company into association with human rights abuses that will destroy its reputation forever. If representatives agree to meet with me, this is what I’ll tell them:

I’m an Afghan Hazara. When I was 10 years old, I fled the Taliban to seek safety in Australia without my parents, but with my brother’s family.

I taught myself English in Nauru detention camp. The guards, employed by a corporation, weren’t that interested in speaking to me, but it was the only way I could learn English. These guards, paid by the Australian government to detain a child, grudgingly became my teachers.

International human rights bodies have condemned Australia’s system of arbitrary and indefinite detention as abusive.

I’ve experienced it first hand and it has affected me in ways I can’t yet explain…………

Perhaps Ferrovial genuinely hopes to improve conditions in the centres. Let me tell you first-hand, it is impossible.

Arbitrary detention is, in itself, harmful. It doesn’t matter how well you run the camps; keeping innocent men, women and children indefinitely locked up for no reason is abuse……

On 17 March Mohammad Ali Baquiri will address the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, calling for Australia to close down detention centres.

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