Australia Freed The Park Hotel Refugees But Pls Don’t Forget Some Of Us Are Still Locked Up

Australia releasing Medevac refugees and accepting New Zealand’s offer to resettle asylum seekers from the Nauru offshore processing centre is wonderful. However, it is far too late.

These new developments are the promise of a future and a dream of a safe home. For 450 of us, anyway.

If the New Zealand deal was accepted years ago when it was first offered, lives would have been saved. We have lost 13 brothers and women and children were badly hurt in the past nine years, because of the harmful conditions of offshore detention.

And still, there are still hundreds of us without hope of a permanent visa or a future.

I was lucky enough to win my freedom one year ago. That was after eight years of being locked up indefinitely on Manus Island, in the Mantra hotel and then the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation (MITA).

The New Zealand deal is only for 450 of us and doesn’t include those in Papua New Guinea or those transferred under the Medevac law, even though we are all in the same situation.

All of us desperately need permanent resettlement, and all of us need freedom from detention.

The government has slowly let refugees out of detention, a few at a time, and would leave others behind.

Gradual releases hurt people very much and caused a lot of stress for those remaining.

Now, most of us Medevac refugees have been released. All the people who were detained at the Park Hotel Prison are now free.

And still, the government is causing the same pain again with its resettlement plans. It is leaving people behind on temporary visas in Australia.

Permanent visas are very important. We haven’t been able to see our families for nine years. Some of us have not seen our children.

After the trauma of detention, right now we need to rebuild and heal.

I live on a bridging visa which I have to apply to renew every six months. I can’t study or have a secure job. I am still wasting years of my life.

In my previous life, it would be unimaginable to go 14 years without seeing my family. But that is what’s happened. Without a permanent visa, I can’t leave Australia. Nor can my family come to visit or stay with me.

Other Australians who were separated from family during the pandemic now can reunite with them. But we refugees still cannot, and we have no hope to see our loved ones in the future.

Indefinite detention has destroyed us mentally and physically and the trauma will remain with us for the rest of our lives.

I still have no words to describe the feeling of being free after eight years. The joy I felt just to send a single message to my mother: Hi mum, I’m free. I can’t imagine how happy she was at that moment.

I am trying to rebuild my life here in my Australian community, with my friends and their support.

I will never ever forget every single person who helped me while I was in detention and after I was free.

We don’t have any support from the Government, and we can’t find secure work. It is only our friends who help us to scrape together everything we need to live here.

Since I was released from detention I have been an advocate for asylum and human rights. I have spoken to the media, at rallies, and have been invited by schools to share my story with students. These experiences really make me feel happy.

I want to give back to my community. My community is in Australia. I have lots of friends, lots of love and support.

To do this I need a permanent home in Australia. All of us refugees need it, and we need it now. We want to keep rebuilding our lives here with hope, friends and family.

Thanush Selvarasa is a human rights activist for people seeking asylum and was detained on Manus Island, Melbourne Immigration Transit Authority and the Mantra Hotel Melbourne.

Co-written with Marcella Brassett, a Tamil-Indian migrant who works as Training and Campaigns Lead for Democracy in Colour. Previously she has worked for Members of Parliament and on election campaigns.