Refugees and activists Mehdi Ali and Adnan Choopani have finally been released from immigration detention in Melbourne and will be resettled in the United States. It’s been a long fkn time coming and while their release is something to celebrate, it’s also proof of what a cruel embarrassment our immigration detention system is.

Mehdi Ali has been vocal about the appalling treatment of asylum seekers and refugees in Melbourne’s Park Hotel. He arrived in Australia from Iran as a 15-year-old and has been held in detention for nine years.

His cousin Adnan was 16 when they first arrived. They were first kept in the Nauru detention centre before being legally recognised as refugees.

Mehdi reflected on the trauma of his imprisonment on Nauru in an opinion piece he wrote for The Guardian on Friday.

“In our first year detained in the camp on Nauru, I remember most of the asylum seekers were completely depressed,” he wrote.

“I witnessed the suicide of one soul destroyed by this island. Death by self-immolation was the worst scene I had watched in my life. This was the new reality for us on Nauru.

“We were there, my cousin and I, for six years.”

Mehdi and Adnan were brought to Australia under medevac laws in 2019 and held in various detention centres and immigration hotels.

The pair will now be resettled in the US after a long, cruel wait in Australia’s immigration system.

“After spending nine years of my life as a prisoner in different cities and islands in difficult and exhausting conditions, I was going to be released from this torture,” Mehdi wrote.

“It was hard to believe a set date for freedom when I’ve been living my life in uncertainty. The thought to live my life in society brought the feeling of joy, but also struck my heart with fear.”

Both Adnan and Mehdi have spoken about the complexity of their feelings when it comes to being released. Namely because of the other refugees and asylum seekers trapped unnecessarily and cruelly by Australia’s immigration system.

After arriving in the US Adnan wrote about his sudden releases and how it “should make it clear that the #ausgov is in a breaking point”.

He called for Australians to keep vocally decrying our system of detention until all refugees and asylum seekers are freed.

Both Mehdi Ali and Adnan Choopani previously spoke to PEDESTRIAN.TV about the increased media spotlight on Park Hotel after tennis player Novak Djokovic was held there.

“It’s sad that we are suffering for nine years and no one actually covers it from the media,” Mehdi told PEDESTRIAN.TV.

“People are finding out about us because Djokovic [was] here. They’re not aware of what’s going on in their own country and they have a right to know.”

Adnan also described the conditions in immigration detention.

“Imagine yourself living in a place indefinitely for nine years, where you have no control of your basic rights,” he told PEDESTRIAN.TV.

“For your food, you are always served in containers, with maggots [in your food] and mould on your bread. People aren’t calling you by your name, they’re calling you ‘detainee’ or by your boat number.

“For nine years. And you can’t leave this centre in any circumstances. It’s chaos. It’s totally chaos.”

The two men — who were boys when they arrived in Australia looking for safety — are being resettled via a deal made in 2016. In the deal, the US agreed to resettle over 1,260 refugees in Australia while we would resettle Costa Rican refugees.

Feels pretty weird to be swaps with real human lives, but that’s our immigration system for you!

According to The Guardian, Adnan and Medhi will be some of the last people to be resettled in the US under the deal.

Image: Getty Images / Future Publishing