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The Project hosts fire up after Iranian immigrant shares story of nine years in Australian detention

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Peter van Onselen has fired up after one of Australia’s biggest human rights issues was exposed on the back of Novak Djokovic’s media storm.

A refugee being held in Australia for nine years has had his story go public amid the ongoing Novak Djokovic visa cancellation scandal unfolding in Melbourne this week.

Iranian immigrant Mehdi Ali was 15 when he arrived in Australia seeking sanctuary and is currently being held in Carlton’s Park Hotel, the same location the polarising tennis star is temporarily being held as his visa appeal gets underway.

Mehdi described seeing the media storm gather outside his window, admitting he briefly got excited believing some action would be made in regard to Australia’s controversial detention of refugees.

“Yesterday, a few people on Facebook and Twitter said that they did not know about what‘s going on in Park Hotel, and they came here for Djokovic and they found out about our circumstances and they were shocked,” he told The Project on Friday.

“And to be honest, I got excited. And at the same time, I felt disappointed. And I got sad. Because it’s been nine years, and that’s why they found out about us.”

Mehdi, who has now spent nine birthdays in detention in Australia, says he spends most of his time reading or trying to sleep to “kill the time” spent in confinement. He said he has just one window to view the goings-on of life outside, describing as the thing “barring me for freedom”.

“And the air behind the window is freedom,” he said. “The air inside the window is a jail, to describe it as simply as possible. I was diagnosed with PTSD – I’m traumatised. Nauru was such a cruel place. It wasn’t safe at all. Me personally, I was about to die there.

When asked if he had hope his situation would be rectified, he responded saying there was always faith, but ultimately the decision was up to the Minister.

“There is always hope. But it‘s up to the Minister. We ask ABF, we ask a case worker – they tell us it’s up to the Minister,” he continued.

“They won’t actually give us a deadline. I’ve been in detention for almost nine years, though I’ve never committed a crime in my whole life. I’ve served my time, you know?”

In regards to having the refugee situation addressed as a result of the increased attention following the Djokovic scandal, Mehdi sadly remained sceptical, describing the current media storm as “a wave”.

“When Djokovic is going to get out of here, probably no-one will pay attention to us,” he continued.

“I really hope the media is going to continue to cover our story, continue speaking about us – especially the media that‘s inside Australia. I really hope that the media stand up to the government and I hope Djokovic himself is going to speak about us. ‘Cause he has a strong voice.”

When asked if he had a message was to the nine-time Australian Open champion currently housed below him, Mehdi responded saying he hoped his time in detention would open his eyes to the struggle many face daily.

“You are experiencing detention for a short period of time,” he said. “And you know how it is to watch people living life out the window when you don‘t have one. Just telling him that – speak about us. Tell the world how cruel it is to keep human beings in rooms in detention indefinitely.”

Hosts Nazeem Hussein and Peter van Onselen fired up after the intense interview, admitting the entire fiasco had left them confused and “disgusted” at Australia’s handling of immigration.

Hussein described the situation regarding Djokovic and his current refugee neighbours at the Park Hotel as a “microcosm of two very different sides of Australian lives”.

“One man, the state governments would do anything to get him out of there because of a world-class sporting event. On the other hand, we have refugees we treat so horribly. Our immigration system is almost of this world,” he said.

“I’ve long been a bleeding heart – I’m against it,” van Onselen responded.

“I gave up years ago … The Liberal Party always managed to turn Labor around – but this is somebody being used as reverse human bait.

“It’s just disgusting. And it does need to have a light shone on it pretty much permanently, frankly.”

Read related topics:Melbourne


Peter van Onselen has fired up after one of Australia’s biggest human rights issues was exposed on the back of Novak Djokovic’s media storm.

A refugee being held in Australia for nine years has had his story go public amid the ongoing Novak Djokovic visa cancellation scandal unfolding in Melbourne this week.

Iranian immigrant Mehdi Ali was 15 when he arrived in Australia seeking sanctuary and is currently being held in Carlton’s Park Hotel, the same location the polarising tennis star is temporarily being held as his visa appeal gets underway.

Mehdi described seeing the media storm gather outside his window, admitting he briefly got excited believing some action would be made in regard to Australia’s controversial detention of refugees.

“Yesterday, a few people on Facebook and Twitter said that they did not know about what‘s going on in Park Hotel, and they came here for Djokovic and they found out about our circumstances and they were shocked,” he told The Project on Friday.

“And to be honest, I got excited. And at the same time, I felt disappointed. And I got sad. Because it’s been nine years, and that’s why they found out about us.”

Mehdi, who has now spent nine birthdays in detention in Australia, says he spends most of his time reading or trying to sleep to “kill the time” spent in confinement. He said he has just one window to view the goings-on of life outside, describing as the thing “barring me for freedom”.

“And the air behind the window is freedom,” he said. “The air inside the window is a jail, to describe it as simply as possible. I was diagnosed with PTSD – I’m traumatised. Nauru was such a cruel place. It wasn’t safe at all. Me personally, I was about to die there.

When asked if he had hope his situation would be rectified, he responded saying there was always faith, but ultimately the decision was up to the Minister.

“There is always hope. But it‘s up to the Minister. We ask ABF, we ask a case worker – they tell us it’s up to the Minister,” he continued.

“They won’t actually give us a deadline. I’ve been in detention for almost nine years, though I’ve never committed a crime in my whole life. I’ve served my time, you know?”

In regards to having the refugee situation addressed as a result of the increased attention following the Djokovic scandal, Mehdi sadly remained sceptical, describing the current media storm as “a wave”.

“When Djokovic is going to get out of here, probably no-one will pay attention to us,” he continued.

“I really hope the media is going to continue to cover our story, continue speaking about us – especially the media that‘s inside Australia. I really hope that the media stand up to the government and I hope Djokovic himself is going to speak about us. ‘Cause he has a strong voice.”

When asked if he had a message was to the nine-time Australian Open champion currently housed below him, Mehdi responded saying he hoped his time in detention would open his eyes to the struggle many face daily.

“You are experiencing detention for a short period of time,” he said. “And you know how it is to watch people living life out the window when you don‘t have one. Just telling him that – speak about us. Tell the world how cruel it is to keep human beings in rooms in detention indefinitely.”

Hosts Nazeem Hussein and Peter van Onselen fired up after the intense interview, admitting the entire fiasco had left them confused and “disgusted” at Australia’s handling of immigration.

Hussein described the situation regarding Djokovic and his current refugee neighbours at the Park Hotel as a “microcosm of two very different sides of Australian lives”.

“One man, the state governments would do anything to get him out of there because of a world-class sporting event. On the other hand, we have refugees we treat so horribly. Our immigration system is almost of this world,” he said.

“I’ve long been a bleeding heart – I’m against it,” van Onselen responded.

“I gave up years ago … The Liberal Party always managed to turn Labor around – but this is somebody being used as reverse human bait.

“It’s just disgusting. And it does need to have a light shone on it pretty much permanently, frankly.”

Read related topics:Melbourne

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