A bittersweet release from immigration detention after nine years

Iranian refugee Hossein Latifi said he was one of 18 inmates still being held at the Park Hotel. On Friday night, the 32-year-old had waited impatiently to see if his name would be called.

Hossein Latifi, 32, remains in detention.

“I thought maybe my name was on the list. When they said there were only these nine people, other people were very upset, very disappointed,” he said.

Earlier in the night, Ismail Hussein was lying on his bed without “hope, depressed”.

Once released, he was taken with five other men to the West City Motel in Ardeer, where he is staying for a few weeks. He said he would receive $150 a week for three weeks and was granted a permanent departure visa E, which allows him to stay for six months and work while he applies to migrate to another country.

The visa does not allow him to settle in Australia, but gives him access to Medicare. After six months, he will have to apply for the same visa again if he has not found asylum in another country.

Mr Hussein said two people had been taken into community detention, which allowed them to stay but not work. He still did not know why he had been released.

He arrived by ship and was detained on Manus Island, where his mental health collapsed after many years in detention. At the end of 2019, he was brought to Australia with kidney and bladder problems, PTSD and high blood pressure. He was initially put up at another hotel for a year before being taken to the park.

The Asylum Seeker Resource Center, which plans to support recently released refugees, said it was in ongoing contact with the federal government asking to be notified of any releases so it can respond with information. aid.

The center’s advocacy director, Jana Favero, said releasing detainees at 9 p.m. on a Friday before a long weekend without telling support agencies was unfair.

“To be dumped after nine years with so little time, we want them to have the best possible entry into freedom and for the government to still exercise its power and cruelty,” Ms Favero said.

She said there was no rhyme or reason why this group was chosen and that since 2020, 210 people have been released from detention.

“I think there will be more releases because there is almost no reason to keep people in detention. Unfortunately, [officials] manage to make it a stress and a waste.

Mohammed Joy Miah, 41, from Bangladesh, was released from the Park Hotel but many of his friends are still being held.

Mohammed Joy Miah, 41, from Bangladesh, was released from the Park Hotel but many of his friends are still being held.

Bangladeshi Muhammad Joy Miah, 41, also tasted freedom for the first time in nearly nine years on Friday night. He arrived in 2013 by boat and was taken to Christmas Island, where he lived for 10 months, then to Nauru for six years before being brought to Australia in 2020 under so-called medical evacuation laws. transporting sick asylum seekers to Australia for treatment. .

He is currently staying on a bridging visa at UniLodge in Melbourne’s CBD and expects to receive documents on Wednesday.

“We don’t know what’s going on and how long we’re going to be here,” he said.

Limbo continues for those staying at the Park Hotel.

Mr Latifi said he was happy to see his friends released and after so long together they were like family.

“We always ask ourselves: ‘What about us? What is the difference between us and them?

He can’t open his bedroom windows, so he barely gets any fresh air. Now no one has left their room, Mr Latifi said.

He said people who commit a crime would receive a sentence and a release date. “But in our situation of nearly nine years, with no crime, no one is saying, ‘OK, you guys, in the next few weeks you’ll be out. ”

A Home Office spokesman said he would not comment on individual cases, but Australian government policies had not changed and asylum seekers arriving by boat would not be settled in Australia. .

“Individuals released from immigration detention receive transitional support through the Status Resolution Support Services program, including support from social workers, housing and financial assistance,” a- he declared.

Mr Hussein said he felt “like a human being again”.

“I felt like my soul was coming back to me and my spirit. I felt like I was reborn again. You know I was so happy.

But his release is bittersweet.

“You can’t be completely happy if you leave your close friends in the same situation as you,” he said.

“I could see the grief and sadness in their eyes. My heart breaks for them.”

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