‘I’m just shocked’: Refugee freed on his birthday after 8 years of detention

Kurdish refugee Farhad Bandesh has been freed after eight years in detention. Just days after his release, he returned to Mantra Hotel - where he was once detained - to protest Australia’s immigration policies.


Refugee Farhad Bandesh has been released from detention after eight years. Source: SBS / , Farhad Bandesh/ Twitter

After spending eight years in detention,  Kurdish refugee Farhad Bandesh was freed last Friday on his 39th birthday.

Clutching a guitar in his hand, he walked out of Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation and towards his Australian friends that had been waiting outside.

"My caseworker called me and said ‘you got your freedom’ and I said ‘wow, I cannot believe it. Are you kidding me?’,” Mr Bandesh told The Feed.

“That day was something really special. It’s something I will always remember,” he added.

Five asylum seekers were released from detention last week and given temporary bridging visas, according to the .

Mr Bandesh will be allowed to stay temporarily in Australia until his case is decided and relocation to another country is arranged.

Shortly after his release, Mr Bandesh joined his celebrity friends, including former Socceroo Craig Foster and musician David Bridie, for a makeshift birthday party. At one of his friend’s house, they popped champagne, ate cake and celebrated his release.

The Department of Home Affairs announced on Monday that it would be relocating over 60 men still detained in the Mantra Hotel, as its lease has expired.

A spokesperson told The Feed the men would be transferred to another Melbourne facility but said the “details on transfers or locations are not provided ahead of time for operational and security reasons.”

Less than 72 hours after he was freed, Mr Bandesh returned to Mantra Hotel to call for the release of refugees detained by the Australian government both offshore and onshore. 

“That’s a duty of a human; to respect, to care and to love others that are in the same situation and need help,” he said.

“That’s something I can do, fight for justice and human rights,” he added.
Farhad Bandesh
Farhad Bandesh is now on a bridging visa. Source: Supplied

Mr Bandesh fled Iran in 2013 and travelled to Christmas Island by boat. He was then relocated to Manus Island where he was detained for six years. 

Mr Bandesh was on Manus Island during the 2014 riots when Iwas murdered by two security guards. He told The Feed the situation on Manus Island was “just crazy”.

“We were 50 refugees in a tent. It was just inhumane. You couldn’t play music inside, you have no privacy,” he said.

“It really hurt your mental health because of the noise.”

In July 2019, Mr Bandesh was transferred to Mantra Hotel in Melbourne under the Medevac legislation before being relocated to MITA in April.

Mr Bandesh's case had been before the Federal Circuit Court before his release and is yet to be finalised.

The artist and musician told The Feed he doesn’t know what his future holds but is currently staying at a friend’s house in Melbourne and waiting to hear from the government. 

In a statement to The Feed, a spokesperson from the Department of Home Affairs said: “in line with Australian Government policy, no one under regional processing arrangements will be settled in Australia.”

This effectively means while Mr Bandesh has been released from MITA, he will not be able to stay in Australia. 

“Transitory people are encouraged to finalise their medical treatment in Australia so they can continue on their resettlement pathway to the United States, return to Nauru or PNG, or for those who are not refugees, return to their home country,” the spokesperson said. 

The Feed asked Home Affairs for more information detailing the Department’s specific plan for Mr Bandesh but they did not respond by deadline. 

Mr Bandesh said that following his release, he received so many messages of support from Australians that he still hasn’t found time to reply to all of them.

“You just want to cry. These people are really amazing, why can’t the government learn from these beautiful people?,” he said.

“We need to be united and fight against this cruelty and bring new lives for everyone.”

For now, Mr Bandesh is working on his music and writing a new song called ‘Celebrate’, which he said he hopes to release once more detained refugees receive visas for resettlement.

“I lost my life for eight years but we need to build a new life and do something positive,” he said. 

“We need to be united and fight against this cruelty and bring new lives for everyone.”

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4 min read
Published 16 December 2020 at 4:30pm
By Eden Gillespie
Source: SBS