After eight years in detention, Farhad Bandesh walked out of Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation carrying his guitar.
- Farhad Bandesh spent his first day of freedom campaigning for other asylum seekers to be freed
- Mostafa Azimitabar is hopeful he too will one day be released from his Preston hotel room
- Lawyer Alison Battison said the release of the five detainees opens the gate to others
Three friends picked him up and took him straight to his impromptu 39th birthday party, complete with a cake and champagne.
“I was shocked and born again, that was my feeling,” he said.
“It was a good gift and something that’s in my mind forever, and not something I’ll ever forget,” he said.
The Kurdish asylum seeker fled Iran in 2013 but, after arriving on Christmas Island, he was transferred to Manus Island in Papua New Guinea then brought to Australia for medical treatment in mid-2019.
A small group of people gathered in Melbourne today to call for the release of all refugees in detention.(ABC News: Margaret Paul)
He said he got a call on Friday morning to say he had better arrange for someone to pick him up that afternoon.
“My caseworker rang yesterday in the morning and said, ‘you’ve got your visa, you’ve got your freedom’, and I was just shocked, I cannot believe it,” he said.
Mr Bandesh is one of 200 refugees and asylum seekers brought to Australia for medical treatment under the now-repealed medevac legislation.
Five were released this week in Melbourne and Brisbane.He spent his first day of freedom campaigning for other asylum seekers to be released from detention.
“I am a free man and I am sad for my brothers and sisters who are in detention for no reason,” he said at a rally in Melbourne.
After a long year of coronavirus restrictions, about 100 people were at the rally.
One of the placards read: “We’re not out of lockdown until we’re all out of lockdown.”
Mostafa Azimitabar has been living in a hotel room for over a year and hopes one day he too will be free.(ABC News)
Mostafa hopes he and other refugees will be freed
Mostafa Azimitabar was brought to Australia for medical treatment more than a year ago and has been living in a hotel in Preston, in Melbourne’s north.
“All my life is the size of a room and a narrow corridor,” he said, speaking from his phone in the hotel room, overlooking a busy road.
“When I want to drink a cup of tea I go to the kitchen. I spend 23 hours a day inside this room, for more than a year now.”
Mr Azimitabar said he was brought to Australia for treatment of his asthma and PTSD and so far he said he has only been provided with an inhaler.
He said he is happy some of his friends were released.
“When I see their smiles I really got very happy and I really think that also there is a way for the rest of the refugees to be free,” he said.
A gate has opened for other refugees living in detention
Lawyer Alison Battison represents Mr Azimitabar. She said the release of the five detainees this week is important.
“It’s an incredible achievement by the legal fraternity,” she said.
“For others it means a gate has opened. It’s very clear now unlawful detention, where the purpose of someone’s detention is not being pursued, is unlawful under Australian law.”
Refugee advocate Craig Foster called for all asylum seekers and refugees to be released by the Government.(ABC News: Timothy Swanston)
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Ms Battison said lawyers for the other detainees brought to Australia under the medevac legislation would be filing individual claims.
“It would be amazing if the Government took a sensible approach from a human rights perspective, a legal perspective and a taxpayers perspective to look at the cohort of people in APODs (alternative places of detention) and in normal immigration detention and come to a sensible solution that doesn’t involve 200 individual cases,” she said.
Refugee advocate and former Socceroo Craig Foster was there to welcome Farhad Bandesh when he was released from detention in Melbourne.
He joined a rally in Sydney calling for all asylum seekers to be released from detention.
“Farhad, I hope, is the trigger for every Australian to call on the Government to say, ‘just release the other 500 and let’s stop these arguments’,” he said.
A spokesperson for the Department of Home Affairs said the department would not comment on individual cases.