Loghman Sawari was 17 when he was first detained under Australia’s offshore detention policy.
Eight years on, he’s still there.
“It is painful. It has been eight years of my life. It is already gone,” he told SBS News from the Brisbane Immigration Transit Accommodation (BITA) center.
A member of Iran’s Ahwazi Arab minority, Mr. Sawari fled Iran in 2013 after his family was targeted by government forces. His brothers had been jailed by intelligence officers, and a cousin was killed by hanging.
When Mr. Saawri arrived at Christmas Island on 24 July, he was unaware things had changed.
He spent the following years detained on Manus Island and Port Moresby.
In that time, he witnessed the death of fellow detainees, including the murder of Reza Berati in February 2014. Eighteen at the time, he said he was also a target of violence by rioters attacking the detention center on Manus Island, with a brick hurled at his head.
The locals attacked us. They broke the fence and came in,” he said.
“It is terrifying, even recounting this. My heart is beating really fast because we witnessed many things we weren’t supposed to see.”
Mr. Saawri was transferred to Australia in 2019 under the now-repealed medevac law, first to a Kangaroo Point motel detention facility in Brisbane and then to BITA.
Now, he has one wish: to be resettled in a third country.
“I am looking for freedom and a safe place, wherever around the world, it doesn’t matter – a safe place where someone can respect my identity and respect my person,” he said.
That wish was close to being realized last year under a resettlement deal struck in 2016 between the US and Australia.
Mr. Sawari’s health checks and other procedural requirements had been completed, and a date was set for a flight to the US – 17 December.
It never eventuated.
“I had the date, my friend in America was told I would be arriving, everything was clear … but I am still here,” Mr. Sawari said.
‘Dark chapter of Australian history
It’s now been eight years since the Australian government’s offshore detention program came into force. The anniversary has sparked renewed calls for asylum seekers languishing in Australia’s immigration detention network, like Mr. Sawari, to be set free. Ian Rintoul from the Refugee Action Coalition said Australia’s offshore detention policy has caused a great deal of suffering.