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Dozens more refugees set to be freed from detention

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Dozens more detained refugees who were transferred from offshore detention will soon be released on bridging visas, refugee advocates say.

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A further 34 men have been told they will be freed from detention facilities in Melbourne on Thursday, the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre claims, following the release of about two dozen detainees on Wednesday.

One of the men slated for release on Thursday is Mardin Arvin, an Iranian refugee who spent six years in Papua New Guinea after seeking asylum in Australia by boat.

He has been detained in Melbourne hotels used as makeshift detention centres since he came to Australia for treatment under the now-repealed ‘medevac’ law in November 2019.

Arvin, 32, said he was looking forward to spending some time alone without being surrounded by security guards.

“I wish to be alone and working…and get some fresh air, sunshine,” he said.

After 26 men were released from the Park Hotel in Carlton on Wednesday, Australian Border Force officials held meetings with other groups of detainees in the hotel.

One group of 14 was told they would not be released, but another – including Arvin – was told they would be freed the following day.

Arvin wrote on Facebook that he could not be completely happy until all Manus and Nauru refugees were free.

The Melbourne hotel and another in Brisbane were designated as alternative places of detention by the Federal Government, and have been the centre of fierce protests during the past year.

The men held in them were brought to Australia for medical treatment under the short-lived ‘medevac’ legislation.

Repealed in December 2019, the law allowed independent doctors to recommend the transfer of people held in Nauru and Papua New Guinea to Australia for medical purposes.

Sri Lankan refugee Ramsiyar Sabanayagam, 29, will also be released from the Park Hotel on Thursday.

He was just 22 when he arrived on Christmas Island and was sent to Manus Island.

Wednesday was “really very exciting” because it was the first time he heard about freedom in eight years, he said.

The hotel he was held in for over a year before being transferred to the Park in December was like a prison, with no sunshine or fresh air, he said.

He is looking forward to hugging his supporters and saying thank you.

“First of all I want to meet my friends…because lots of supporters, brothers and sisters and grandmothers, day by night they are supporting us and fighting for us,” he said.

While happy to be released, Sabanayagam said that a six-month bridging visa was not enough.

“We need a permanent solution. I am waiting too long, eight years,” he said.

Lawyer Noeline Harendran of Sydney West Legal believes the releases stem from over 100 cases she and colleague Daniel Taylor have filed on behalf of the men in federal courts.

She said hearing of the releases was “on the same level” as having babies and getting married.

The Department of Home Affairs told AAP in a statement: “The Australian Government’s policy is clear that no one who attempts illegal maritime travel to Australia will be permanently settled here.”

It said people held in the hotels were only brought to Australia temporarily for medical treatment and should finalise their medical treatment and go to the United States, Nauru or PNG, or their home country.

Neither Arvin nor Sabanayagam have been accepted for resettlement in the US.

The government has not returned anybody to offshore detention in years, despite some refugees’ requests.

– AAP

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