Parents of slain asylum-seeker sue Australian government for son’s death in detention centre

By Melissa Coade

Tuesday July 27, 2021

supreme-court-victoria
The Victorian Supreme Court had held the federal government responsible for security guards on Manus Island failing to protect Berati and other detainees during a 2014 riot.(Craig/Adobe)

The parents of a young Iranian man who was murdered by security guards of an Australian offshore detention centre on Manus Island during a riot in 2014 are suing the federal government and security contractor in charge.

According to reports by The Age, Farideh Baralak and Torab Berati have filed documents in the Supreme Court of Victoria claiming ‘psychiatric injury’ and ‘mental harm’ for the murder of their son Reza Berati.

Robert Cornwall, former secretary of Australia’s Attorney General’s department, produced a report about the fatal 2014 Manus Island incident which found that the Australian government had failed in its duty to protect offshore detainees on Manus Island safe from harm. The report described the riot as ‘eminently foreseeable’ and that a process which gave the asylum seekers a ‘clear pathway’ in the assessment of their claims would have prevented the escalating unrest. 

Slain asylum seeker Berati was only 23-years-old when he was killed by Joshua Kaluvia and Louie Efi during a riot at Australia’s offshore detention centre on Manus Island. The 2014 riot began as a series of protests, with tensions among the asylum seeker detainees having simmered for weeks in the lead-up to the violent clashes.

According to reports by the ABC at the time, just prior to the night when riots broke for the second time the asylum seekers had been told at a meeting that their only option for resettlement was in Papua New Guinea (PNG).

PNG nationals Kaluvia and Efi were security staff employed by G4S Australia, which was contracted to operate the centre (the company oversaw management and security of the Australian facility from February 2013 to March 2014). Cornwall’s report found that as tensions on the island rose, security staff had noted the detainees were fashioning weapons.

On 17 February, 2014, during the violent riots, Kaluvia is believed to have struck Berati with a length of timber embedded with nails. As Berati was lying on the floor, Efi then dropped a rock on his head. 

Berati died the following day on 18 February. Now his parents are pursuing the Australian government in court for its negligence and that of security company G4S Australia, which, they say, resulted in their son’s murder.

“We won’t recover from our loss. I do not want the human rights of my child to be ignored or forgotten by the world,” Torab Berati told The Age

“I want the international community to protect the rights of my son. I want justice for my son. I don’t want his death to be insignificant.”

In 2016 Kaluvia and Efi were each sentenced to 10 years in prison by PNG’s national court for their role in the young man’s murder. 

Scott Morrison was immigration minister at the time of the fatal event at the Australian processing facility. He blamed the detainees for the violence that unfolded in 2014.

The Age reports that among the liability claims that Berati’s parents have made to the Supreme Court, they argue Australia’s detention centre facility on Manus Island was inadequate because it was built to accommodate 500 people but by February 2014 was housing 1,340 asylum seekers.

The Beratis also claim that the federal government is responsible for the death of their son because it knew, or ought to have known, the likelihood of protests and unrest among the detainees for of a number of reasons, such as: that government failed to provide a processing timeline for refugee claims; the detainees did not have access to legal representation; and overcrowding concerns in the detention centre. 

In 2017 the Australian government and the operators of the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre, including G4S Australia and Broadspectrum (formerly Transfield Services), entered a $70 million settlement (with no admission of liability) with 1900 detainees.


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