A Kurdish refugee who was suddenly freed from immigration detention after seven-and-a-half years has said he feels reborn again, and thanked supporters and human rights activists.
Farhad Bandesh, an artist and musician who fled persecution in Iran, arrived in Australia in 2013 but was held on Manus Island for six years, and then in detention in Australia since July 2019.
On Friday, the day of his 39th birthday, he was suddenly released from immigration detention, and met at the gates by friends, including refugee advocate and former Socceroo Craig Foster.
He told Guardian Australia he found out two hours before he was released.
I didnt believe it, he said. I said it is unbelievable. I was reborn again yesterday. On my birthday, which is a gift. I am a free man now, I can walk, I can sit anywhere I want. I can drink, I can see, visit my friends. And there are no guards, there is no high watch anymore.
Yesterday I received a call from immigration, and they said You will be released soon. I didnt know, I said, Come on. They said, You need to pack up everything, and youre a free man. [That was] one or two hours before. Thats why it shocked me. I cannot believe it.
Bandesh is one of five asylum seekers who were released from detention this week, who were all transferred to Australia under Medevac.
Three people were released on Friday, and two on Tuesday, and all were given temporary bridging visas, according to the Refugee Advocacy Network.
Spokesman Chris Breen said on Friday that all five asylum seekers had cases before the federal circuit court challenging the legality of their detention.
The decision by the minister [to release them] has pre-empted a court decision, he said.
Bandesh told Guardian Australia that Foster did not believe him at first that he had been freed.
When I called, Craig said Dont joke with me. I said, Its serious. He said, Really? I said yes. He didnt believe either.
Bandesh spent his first day of freedom with his friends celebrating my freedom and my birthday at the same time.
Im going to contribute to this country, he said. And I really appreciate the Aboriginal people, and the supporters who support me and others in these eight years.
We are innocent people and we have some people in the community who are beside us. They walk beside us in this battle and the nightmare will be over, and we will be free and we deserve to be free My message is resistance brings life, resistance brings freedom.
I really just appreciate the people who fight for our freedom, and it is something I cannot forget. It is a treasure for me. It is in my heart forever.
Three asylum seekers were released from detention in Melbourne this week and two from detention in Brisbane.
But Breen said there were five other asylum seekers also in the same circumstances, with cases before the circuit court.
Peter Dutton must now free and permanently resettle all the refugees [around 200] who came to Australia under Medevac legislation, he said.
They have been detained for seven years. They arent being processed and they arent being treated, they have committed no crime.
Breen said bridging visas are temporary and the government should give permanent residency to the released asylum seekers.
Bridging visas typically get renewed every six months, he said. They all have places to stay, but their next steps, they are probably overwhelmed, they spent seven years detained inside. To be out is enormous.
Guardian Australia understands that the asylum seekers have been given two nights accommodation by the government and $300.
Bandesh will be speaking at a rally in Melbourne on Saturday afternoon in the city, and also outside the Mantra hotel where more than 60 asylum seekers remain in detention. He had initially been planning to speak over the phone, but will now speak in person.

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