Alana Buckley-Carr, The West Australian March 9, 2012
An Afghan asylum seeker who hanged himself in the Curtin immigration detention centre last year could have been saved if staff were properly equipped, according to one of the first officers on the scene.
The office of Coroner Alastair Hope confirmed this week that he will hold a public inquest into the death of 20-year-old Hazara asylum seeker Mohammed Asif Atay.
News of the inquest came as an asylum seeker recovers from an attempted suicide at Curtin on Saturday.
The circumstances were similar to the death of Mr Atay, whose resuscitation was delayed after the first officer there could not cut him down because he was not equipped with a Hoffman rescue knife – a tool given to detention centre officers to cut down people who attempt suicide.
It was not until a second officer arrived at the compound that staff had access to Mr Atay.
But that officer’s Hoffman knife was blunt and it took several attempts to cut through the bed sheets Mr Atay used to kill himself. The officer could not continue cutting because of fatigue and another officer had to take over, finally cutting Mr Atay down.
Resuscitation attempts began then but he could not be revived.
Almost a year on, staff are still frustrated at the shortage of Hoffman knives, which was an issue in the weekend’s suicide attempt.
_The West Australian _ understands Hoffman knives had been delivered to the centre but, as of last Saturday, had not been distributed to Serco staff.
But just hours after Saturday’s suicide attempt, the knives were handed out.
Serco, which operates the detention centre, refused to answer questions about the knives, saying only that they were committed to doing everything they could to keep those in their care from harm.
He said staff were trained to deal with emergencies and had first-aid equipment available.
An Immigration Department spokeswoman said the department would co-operate with an inquest.