‘Mental torture’: Protesters seek freedom for detained Iran refugee

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About 50 people held a protest at Brisbane's immigration detention centre
About 50 people held a protest at Brisbane's immigration detention centre, BITA ( Brisbane Immigration Transit Accommodation) last Sunday calling for the release of all refugees. Image: Ian Rintoul/RNZ Pacific

By Lydia Lewis, RNZ Pacific journalist, and Christina Persico, RNZ Pacific bulletin editor

As Australian protesters gathered outside the Brisbane detention centre calling for the freedom of a Nauru refugee, the man pleaded with authorities to release him.

Hamid has been held in a hotel room and then the detention centre for months.

“They want to kill me gradually with mental torture,” he said.

“New Zealand government, please save me from the cruel and inhuman clutches of Australian politicians,” Hamid, an Iranian who was held on Nauru for almost a decade, told RNZ Pacific.

He is one of hundreds of refugees who had sought asylum in Australia but was detained offshore.

He was brought to Australia in February 2023 for medical treatment and then kept in a hotel room in Brisbane.

“They are actually cruel. And they are actually killing me by mental torture,” Hamid said.

Other refugees released
Other refugees brought to Australia have been released from hotel detention within a week or two but not Hamid, who said he had been confined for weeks on end.

“And they didn’t release me and they released everyone in front of my eyes. So what is this after 10 years? After 10 years, they are putting me in a detention centre with a lot of criminal people. What is this? It’s torture!” Hamid said.

He was held first in the Meriton Hotel, in Brisbane, and on June 7 he was transferred to the Brisbane detention centre.

Around 50 people held a protest at Brisbane's immigration detention centre, BITA ( Brisbane Immigration Transit Accommodation), yesterday Sunday, June 11 2023.
A protester at Brisbane’s immigration detention centre, BITA ( Brisbane Immigration Transit Accommodation), on Sunday . . .  “Other refugees brought to Australia have been released from hotel detention within a week.” Image: Ian Rintoul/RNZ Pacific

“I’m not a criminal . . . I didn’t come to Australia illegally.

“But they keep me in detention,” Hamid said.

All meals were eaten in his room, and he was sometimes taken to the BITA Detention Centre for one hour’s exercise a day.

RNZ Pacific decided not to interview him in his fragile state while he was in isolation, but since he was moved to detention where he can exercise and walk around the compound, he wanted to speak out about his treatment.

Wish to go to NZ
“I’m sure the New Zealand government and people are lovely. And this is my wish. As soon as possible, go to New Zealand. And please do my process as soon as possible. Thank you so much,” Hamid said.

He begged the New Zealand government to speed up the immigration process which he has applied for under the AUS/NZ Agreement.

“I have to support my family — my wife and youngest daughter are in Iran. And I have to support them. They are my priority. My first priority in my life is to support them. And as they put me here I cannot,” Hamid said.

Around 50 people held a protest at Brisbane's immigration detention centre, BITA ( Brisbane Immigration Transit Accommodation), yesterday Sunday, June 11 2023.
Protesters at Brisbane’s immigration detention centre, BITA ( Brisbane Immigration Transit Accommodation), on Sunday . . . Hamid was promised he would be released from detention in Australia. Image: Ian Rintoul/RNZ Pacific

Like others brought from Nauru, he was promised he would be released from detention in Australia, and was even asked whether he wanted to be released on a bridging visa or on a community detention order.

He has been awaiting news from the New Zealand government as to whether or not he will be accepted for the freedom he has waited almost a decade for.

Free Hamid rally
For the last several months, the Australian Labor government has been transferring the remaining refugees and asylum seekers on Nauru to Australia, the Refugee Action Coalition said in a statement.

In December last year there were 72 people held offshore by Australia in Nauru. As of last week, 13 refugees were left but it is understood that another transfer was to be completed at the weekend.

Last Sunday, a “Free Hamid” rally was held outside the detention centre.

Hamid’s son, Arman, was released from hotel detention in Victoria in 2022 and spoke at the rally.

Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition, said the Labor government has no more excuses.

“It’s way beyond time that Hamid was freed from detention and reunited with his son,” Rintoul said.

‘Strong progress’ made on NZ resettlement deal
Australia’s Department of Home Affairs (DFAT) told RNZ Pacific in a statement that while it does not comment on individual cases, it is committed to an enduring regional processing capability in Nauru as a key pillar of “Operation Sovereign Borders’.

“The enduring capability ensures regional processing arrangements remain ready to receive and process any new unauthorised maritime arrivals, future-proofing Australia’s response to maritime people smuggling,” the statement said.

DFAT said Australia was focused on supporting the Nauru government to resolve the regional processing caseload, and that “strong progress” had been made on the New Zealand resettlement arrangement.

“I’m so tired of the Australian government, just the government, you know, not the people,” Hamid said.

Immigration New Zealand has told RNZ Pacific it is working as fast as it could to get refugees to New Zealand under the AUS/NZ deal which aims to settle up to 150 refugees each year for three years.

Year one ends this month, on June 30.

Hamid hopes to be one of those included in this year’s intake.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

Two banners and candles at the gates of a refugee detention centre during a candlelight vigil. Asanka Brendon Ratnayake / Anadolu Agency
Two banners and candles at the gates of a refugee detention centre during a candlelight vigil in Brisbane. Asanka Brendon Ratnayake/Anadolu Agency/AFP/RNZ Pacific
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