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Former detainee seeks compensation for unlawful detention

  • 02 August 2022
The punitive, secretive and often opaque nature of Australia’s immigration detention system is in the national spotlight this month as former detainee Kurdish-Iranian refugee Mostafa ‘Moz’ Azimitabar seeks compensation from the Federal Government for what he alleges was unlawful detention.

Detained offshore in Papua New Guinea (PNG) and in Australia for almost eight years, Moz is seeking compensation in the Federal Court of Australia for the physical and emotional toll of his detention, particularly from the final 14 months of detention in two Melbourne based hotels. He is set to argue that his detention in the Mantra Hotel and Park Hotel was unlawful under the Migration Act 1958 (Cth) ‘as the government does not have the legislative power to turn such hotels into Alternative Places of Detention’ (APOD).

In an interview with Guardian Australia last year, Moz described how detention caused significant deterioration in his health and wellbeing:

‘It was really difficult, there were lots of officers around always … and I was under lots of stress…After 13 months locked in the Mantra prison without sunlight I was so sick they said they would take me to a better place. But that was a lie, the situation in the Park hotel was much worse…in the Park prison, there was a dark glass facing a cement wall, I felt I was in an invisible prison. I couldn’t see trees, or wave to people outside.’

Over the past two decades, those impacted by Australia’s draconian immigration detention system have faced significant challenges in sharing their story. Many fear that speaking out could affect their immigration status or the possibility of family reunification, while others worry they will be forced to return to detention.

Legal cases such as Moz’s — as well as activism through interviews, books and art — offer crucial opportunities for people with this lived experience to give voice to their trauma and to shine a spotlight on the opaque and secretive workings of immigration detention in Australia.

Countless reports, inquiries and research have shown the devastating physical and psychological toll that offshore processing and detention has had on those imprisoned at the hands of the federal government.

'Australians have witnessed successive federal governments introduce and maintain immigration policies, laws and rhetoric based on deterrence and dehumanisation.'

But these harsh, deterrence-based policies continue to receive bipartisan support under the politically-driven guise of ‘stopping the boats’, ‘saving lives at sea’ and ‘strengthening Australia’s border security’. Australians have witnessed successive federal