This is my eighth Christmas locked up in immigration detention.
I am writing to make people aware of the difficult situation refugees have to endure
December 2017 An article posted on Facebook occupied my thoughts for days. It was about the Manus Island detention centre for refugees and the horrific conditions there. I was exiled to that prison in August 2013. The comments underneath were full of hate towards refugees. Do the people writing this know that this place was a torture camp? Have those people ever asked themselves why refugees leave their families and flee their homelands?
September 2020 The people of Melbourne were protesting the Covid-19 quarantine laws: one month lockdown and restricted movement within 5km. Many were arrested by police. For me, it had been a year since I was incarcerated in the Mantra hotel, imprisoned in a room with only the corridor of the hotel to walk along. Could people in Melbourne’s lockdown understand what I am going through? I wrote an article about this for the Guardian.
After it was published I was curious to read the comments. I wanted to read people’s opinions. It seemed they really sympathised with me. In fact, some said they considered themselves lucky they were not in my situation. Many commented by saying they would no longer complain about quarantine. These comments encouraged me to continue writing about the plight of refugees. But what do these comments really mean? How is one to interpret them? I think about these online interactions deeply as I move ahead to 2021, my eighth year in immigration detention.
December 2020 In 2021 I hope no one is forced to leave their family and flee their homeland. When I was in Iran I was never able to celebrate Christmas. Christmas 2021 will be my eighth Christmas since I fled Iran. I spent six Christmases locked up in the Manus Island detention centre. I was locked up in the Mantra hotel in Melbourne for my seventh Christmas in 2019. And this year I am still locked up. My wish is that I celebrate Christmas in 2021 as a free man; to celebrate the day out of detention; to celebrate a proper Christmas for the first time in my life. I also wish I could see my mother again after eight years.