Asylum seeker suicide: ‘depressed and preoccupied’

Asylum seeker suicide: ‘depressed and preoccupied’

Written by: Rosie Wild

On 20 October 2005, no family or friends were present at the inquest of Iranian asylum seeker Majid Rafieei at the Upperthorpe Medico-Legal Centre in Sheffield – which lasted just one hour.

The inquest into the death of 32-year-old Majid, whose claim for political asylum had been refused but who was not scheduled to be deported because of political unrest in Iran, found that he had taken his own life. Coroner Chris Dorries noted that at the time of his death Majid Rafieei had been in a: ‘difficult situation – without benefits but not, on the evidence I have been given, apparently permitted to work’.

Detective Sergeant Wallace Chambers from Ecclesfield CID testified that Majid was found hanging from a tree in Longley Park, Sheffield on 14 October 2004. He had tied a hangman’s noose around his neck before stepping off a high branch. A toxicology report revealed that he had taken a large quantity of heroin shortly before his death. Witness statements from Majid’s GP, mental health worker and two friends stated that Majid had told them that he would kill himself if his asylum claim were refused. He said that he had been repeatedly imprisoned and tortured in Iran and would rather die than return there.

Majid came to Britain from Iran in March 2000 to claim political asylum. He settled in Sheffield where, unable to work, he enrolled as a student. He sought treatment for depression from his GP on several occasions, telling him that he was frustrated and angry that as an asylum seeker he was not allowed to work. The court heard that in June 2002 he was arrested for threatening behaviour during an appointment at a benefits office and voluntarily admitted himself to a psychiatric ward at Sheffield’s Northern General Hospital for four days.

In 2003, Majid’s asylum claim was denied and he was sentenced to nine months imprisonment as a result of his June 2002 arrest. Majid later told his GP that while in prison he attempted suicide for the first time by stabbing himself but was discovered by his cellmate. After being released at the start of 2004 he moved in with a fellow asylum seeker Bimin Arya in Sheffield and began an appeal against the decision to refuse his asylum claim.

He was seen on 8 July 2004 by a Sheffield community mental health nurse, who in a written statement to the court, stated that she had found Majid to be depressed and preoccupied by his inability to work and the potential consequences of losing his appeal. Majid agreed to take anti-depressants but told the nurse that if his appeal failed he would kill himself rather than be deported to Iran.

Bimin told Detective Sergeant Chambers that three months before his death Majid had been informed by his lawyer that his final appeal had been unsuccessful. In the weeks that followed Majid repeatedly told Bimin and another friend that he would not be around for much longer and on two occasions disappeared for a day. Bimin called the police at midnight on 14 October 2004, after Majid failed to return home for a third time. He was informed that a body fitting his description had been found and identified it as that of Majid. The coroner noted that there was no evidence that Majid had any history of drug abuse and that he had probably taken heroin in preparation for his death. Two suicide notes were found in Majid’s house in the week after his death.

Related links

IRR News story: Two asylum seekers took their own lives within 24 hours

IRR News story: Inquest finds asylum refusal was motive for gay Iranian’s suicide

Read the press release on Death trap: the human cost of the war on asylum

IRR News story: Open verdict on death of asylum seeker who slept in a wheelie bin

National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns

Rosie Wild attended the inquest on behalf of IRR News.

The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.

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