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Australia's Refugee Friends

Mostafa “Moz” Azimitabar, a Kurdish refugee from Iraq, sought asylum in Australia in 2013. Moz was initially transferred to Papua New Guinea, where he was held for six years.  Moz was then brought to Australia for medical help under the Medevac Bill. Upon arrival, he was first held in the Mantra Hotel, before being transferred to the Park Hotel, which lies approximately just 100m from the University’s Parkville campus. He was finally released in January 2021, after 2,737 days...

content warning: people in detention

 

Mostafa “Moz” Azimitabar, a Kurdish refugee from Iraq, sought asylum in Australia in 2013. Moz was initially transferred to Papua New Guinea, where he was held for six years. 

Moz was then brought to Australia for medical help under the Medevac Bill. Upon arrival, he was first held in the Mantra Hotel, before being transferred to the Park Hotel, which lies approximately just 100m from the University’s Parkville campus. He was finally released in January 2021, after 2,737 days of forced detainment by the Australian government.

His first week in the community was characterised by the “experience of freedom” and was “full of excitement…and happiness.”

“I could see and hold my friends. They were not behind the tinted glass.” 

But the celebrations have dimmed over time. After six months, the government has not provided any further support for Moz, who hasn’t received any assistance in securing a job or accommodation.

Finding a job and accommodation is an arduous task for any ordinary Australian, but for freed refugees, these difficulties are exacerbated by the terms of temporary visas that do not permit them to work or study. And visa conditions aren’t the only difficulty.

“I have been traumatized terribly, I can’t work…at the moment I am looking for accommodation and a job,” Moz said.

Despite his trauma, Moz’s life marches on, with moments of enjoyment to be found despite the non-existent support from the government. After he was released, for a period of time he “enjoyed gardening…I just wanted to be with nature, because I was locked up in a small room for fifteen months. I couldn’t see nature. I couldn’t see sunlight.”

He’s also a musician, having released the song he wrote, “Love” on May 3 2020. He’s written  other songs, too, he says, but “just need[s] to find a good producer,” before they see the light of day.

Apart from his music, Moz is passionate about cooking, and particularly loves Kurdish cuisine. 

“I would love to have a restaurant … Kurdish food… art and music… [those things] keep me strong, they help me to be kind to myself.”

“[For] a job I [would] like to cook and help people, especially vulnerable people who feel that they are depressed. I would like to hold their hands and tell them what I have been through for eight years and tell them, the past is the past, and life is beautiful, and freedom is beautiful.” 

Moz would love to study, but under his visa conditions, he is not permitted to do so. If given the chance, he would “love to study human rights, and be a person to help people.” 

Despite his relative freedom, however, Moz’s psychological scars remain.

“I feel a part of me is still in detention, when I see that my friends are in detention, I feel very sad.”

One of those friends is Basim Alobeidi. Fleeing from Iraq to Australia in 2013, Basim was redirected to Manus Island, transferred to Australia under Medevac legislation in 2019, and has been detained in Australia for a total of 589 days. He remains in the Park Hotel in Carlton, only able to contact his family through his phone. 

His childhood memories are that of a war-torn land; conflicts between Iraq, Iran, Kuwait meant the sound and sight of bombs exploding was not uncommon where he grew up. Bombs in the night would shatter the windows of his childhood home. His father and two of his brothers were killed in conflict. He doesn’t know who killed them, or why. 

Basim came to Australia with the expectation of protection, but was instead locked up without reason. “I’m suffering because of where I was born,” he says.

“This policy and this system have caused damage to these people, and some of them will not recover, and some of them have already lost their lives.” 

For the duration of his imprisonment at the Park Hotel, Basim has despaired at the lack of compassion shown by the Hotel’s security staff, who are employees of Serco.

“We try to communicate with them… that we are just innocent or just unlucky… but they honestly don’t really care… they see our pain every single day… they don’t really care… because [they receive] private companies’ money.” 

There are, sometimes, glimpses of kindness. When Basim was in the Mantra Hotel, following the attempted suicide of another refugee, he had a memorable encounter with a police officer.

“One of the police… he start to make conversation with me… how you guys living here, what you doing in the daytime and in the night… and I start to explain to him… we don’t know how long we’ll be and we don’t know what’s the reason… and he start to feel how much he feels sorry for us, and I was feeling how much he has humanity… He said… people in the prison[s]… have proper education, they have place to go and walk… and they know when they will be out and they know what’s the reason… he was very feeling sorry for us.” 

He also retains contact with most of his friends who were previously imprisoned but were allowed to leave detention earlier this year. He recognises the hurdles they face to proper settlement, but laments that freedom is “better than [being in] the detention centre.” 

Additionally, he has taken weekly viola lessons on Skype for nine months now. He jokes that “I was bad before, now I’ve gotten worse.” Nevertheless, he practices every day, recently learning to play the song, “Long Long Ago”.

Basim also has an idea of what he’ll do once he’s freed from the hotel.

“First thing I want is peace and quiet for a couple of days, and to just walk around in a quiet place.”

“If I got out, I would do a lot of things… I miss walking around, touching the ground, driving a car, playing with the animals, playing with...kids.” 

“All the small stuff, you miss it.”

The task of rebuilding his life after over eight years in detention is what he’d tackle next. He has a reliable skill set under his belt, waiting to be used. Back in Iraq, he worked in the crane industry, working in construction since leaving school in grade five. 

“I operate, I fix, I build… I got this job from my own family when I was in Iraq.”

But before he can walk in nature, play with animals, talk with children, or work again, the government must interfere to ensure the freedom of all refugees like Basim.

“I’ve been in this situation for years and years and many times they let people live their own lives and others they keep for punishment… How they work it out, I don’t know.”

And what would Basim ask if he could speak to our politicians?

“Why they keep punishing us for no reason, [when] we’re just seeking asylum.”

“What’s difference from refugees to asylum seekers… We came same way, same boat, same time… there is not any justice here.” 

 
Farrago's magazine cover - Edition Three 2021

FARRAGO MAGAZINE EDITIONS FIVE AND SIX AVAILABLE NOW!

Our final editions for the year are jam packed full of news, culture, photography, poetry, art, fiction and more...

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