Refugee advocate charged over attempt to visit immigration detainee in Brisbane hospital

A refugee advocate will face court after attempting to visit a medevac detainee being treated in a Brisbane hospital.

Elise Ganley (left) at the Kangaroo Point APOD protest.

Elise Ganley (left) at the Kangaroo Point APOD protest. Source: Supplied

A refugee advocate has been charged with trespass and will face court after attempting to visit a medevac detainee from Manus Island being treated in a Brisbane hospital.

Elise Ganley entered the hospital emergency department to visit Farhad Rahmati from Iran, who she calls a friend, but was later told she needed Australian Border Force approval and was asked to leave.

“I refused to move from where he was because it felt deeply against our Christian faith to leave him alone,” the 27-year-old community worker said.

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Farhad Rahmati (wearing blue) in the Kangaroo Point APOD before his transfer to BITA.
Farhad Rahmati (wearing blue) in the Kangaroo Point APOD before his transfer to BITA. Source: Stefan Armbruster/SBS News


Queensland Health declined to comment on the incident and referred enquiries to police and Australian Border Force (ABF) and did not respond to a request for its policy on treating medevac patients or their visiting rights.

ABF did not respond to enquiries.

But Queensland police told SBS News in a statement that it attended the hospital last night after reports of a woman causing a disturbance.

Police advised her she would be required to leave, but the woman allegedly refused to move on and was subsequently arrested.



Mr Rahmati had fallen ill while in the Brisbane Immigration Transit Accommodation (BITA) detention centre where he is being detained and was taken to the Royal Brisbane Women's Hospital.

A video shows Mr Rahmati refusing to be handcuffed by Serco guards for the transfer by ambulance, saying "I'm not a criminal".

“The harshness of detention itself is the reason for my heart condition in Manus Island and yet they tried to handcuff me for a trip to hospital, against the advice of paramedics,” Mr Rahamti said.

“I was told by the nurses that I can not have visitors, then I have asked the Serco officer who was escorting me to let my next of kin to visit me for two minutes and he said ‘no’.”



Mr Rahmati was transferred from Papua New Guinea to Brisbane last July under the now-repealed medevac laws and had been held in what is known as an alternative place of detention (APOD) in Kangaroo Point.

The repurposed hotel has been the focus of recent community protests over the detention of about 110 refugees and asylum seekers from PNG and Nauru.

“We have a health care crisis happening for refugees within BITA and Kangaroo Point Central Apartments and we fear that a COVID-19 outbreak here would be lethal,” Ms Ganley said.

The forced removal of Mr Rahmati from Kangaroo Point to the BITA in June started a round-the-clock protest blockade outside the repurposed hotel to prevent further transfers of detainees.

Last Sunday was the seventh anniversary of the introduction of Australia’s current off-shore processing policy under which hundreds of refugees and asylum seekers who arrived by boat were barred from resettling in Australia.

About 350 remain in Nauru and Manus, 180 in APODs in Brisbane and Melbourne and hundreds more in community detention.

Ms Ganley is due to face Brisbane Magistrates Court on 10 October.


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3 min read
Published 23 July 2020 at 6:03pm
By Stefan Armbruster