Episodes
Video Extras
ArticlesLinks
More
Back

Iranian Refugee, Mehdi Ali Freed From Australian Detention After Nine Years

Mehdi Ali announced the news of his resettlement via Twitter on Thursday evening, confirming he will be resettled in the United States after nine years in Australian detention.

Mehdi Ali came to Australia at just 15-years-old, sent by his family with his cousin, hoping for safety.

Ali and his family were members of a routinely persecuted Iranian minority, 'Ahwazi Arab'.

Upon arriving in Australia seeking refuge, he was sent to Nauru, where he describes a 'complete trauma' began.

At Nauru, still a teenager, Mehdi Ali states that he witnessed a fellow refugee burn himself to death. Ali says he was beaten by guards and shared that "I remember most of the asylum seekers were completely depressed,"

In late 2014, Ali and his cousin's claims for refugee protection were formally recognised in Australia, citing "well-founded fear of persecution" in their home country and could not legally be returned there. Australia was legally obligated to protect them.

The cousins were brought to Australia under the short-lived Medevac laws in 2019.

They were told they were in 'a queue' for resettlement in the United States.

However, that queue never appeared to move.

After spending years in detention, watching other asylum seekers leave and start their new lives, Mehdi Ali became a face for asylum seeker advocacy in Australia. 

Particularly after world number one tennis player, Novak Djokovic, was housed in the same Park Hotel in Melbourne, drawing international press attention. 

The global media attention for Djokovic incidentally shed light on the harsh reality that Ali and many other refugees were facing after being detained in Australia for years on end.

New Zealand also offers to accept refugees that arrive in Australia; however, the Australian government refuses to accept New Zealand's offer to resettle refugees from Australia's "offshore cohort".

They argue it would act as a "pull factor", an incentive for people to come to Australia by boat. 

Today, Mehdi Ali leaves for his new life in the United States. 

He will be one of the last people to be resettled under Australia's refugee swap scheme with the United States.

However, Ali stated via Twitter that he "will not be happy until all my friends get released from detention. it's not freedom until we are all free."