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'Happy' Qasim thanks supporters
Australia's longest serving immigration detainee, Peter Qasim, says he is very happy to be released after seven years in detention.

The Federal Government announced several weeks ago that Mr Qasim would be released pending health and character checks.

He received a bridging visa after it was approved by the Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone last night.

Mr Qasim is currently receiving treatment at Adelaide's Glenside Psychiatric Hospital, and will consult with his doctors tomorrow to work out a plan for his release from the hospital.

Mr Qasim says he plans to live with an Adelaide couple, and would like to seek work when his health improves.

He has thanked those who played a role in his release.

"I am greatly thankful to Minister Amanda Vanstone for giving me visa to live in the community," he said.

"And I would [give] thanks to Mr Dick Smith and all the politicians and backbenchers and my lawyers and all the lovely supporters who worked hard to get me my freedom."

Mr Qasim says he is looking forward to living a normal life when his health improves.

"Detention is a very bad place because you don't know how long you will stay there," he said.

"I hope everyone who has been there for a long time will be released soon."

Mr Qasim says he is now looking forward to life's simple pleasures.

"First I will go and look for good food, spicy food, and that's all I'm thinking right now," he said.

But psychiatrist Jon Juredini, who has examined Mr Qasim, says the 31-year-old's new-found happiness may be short lived.

"It takes weeks and months for some of the real distress to emerge that's kind of been accumulating while they've been locked up," he said.

Dick Smith says he is delighted at the news, and understands Mr Qasim will be leaving the hospital this week.

"I'll be talking to Peter today and he's got his adopted mum and dad, a local Adelaide couple," he said.

"They're going to look after him and then he's got a few sort of mental problems to get over I think and then he's going to be out looking for a job.

"So let's hope someone in Adelaide offers him a job - he'll be a good worker."

The Democrats' Andrew Bartlett says the release is great news.

But Senator Bartlett says Mr Qasim still has an uncertain future.

"He has suffered enormously, his health has been harmed enormously as a direct result of the Government policy and the Government's law," he said.

"And whilst it's great he's out, the Government should still be condemned for what they have done to this man."

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Qasim thanks govt for freedom at last
July 17, 2005 - 10:14AM Australia's longest-serving immigration detainee has used his first moments of freedom to thank the government that kept him locked up for seven years.

Peter Qasim has finally tasted freedom after the federal government approved a bridging visa for the stateless asylum seeker, allowing him to remain in Australia.

Despite his ongoing treatment for depression, Mr Qasim was ecstatic, thanking Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone for allowing him to stay in the country.

He also gave an emotional thank-you to his band of supporters outside Adelaide's Glenside psychiatric hospital where is being treated.

"I am greatly thankful to Minister Amanda Vanstone for giving me visa to live in the community," the 31-year-old said in a statement he read to reporters.

"And I would [give] thanks to Mr Dick Smith and all the politicians and backbenchers and my lawyers and all the lovely supporters who worked hard to get me my freedom."

Mr Qasim - who spent three hours away from the hospital - said he was overwhelmed about being granted his freedom, and hinted at the mental anguish associated with his years in detention.

"Detention is a very bad place if you stay a long time I think you forget the world outside," he said.

"I am happy my time (in detention) has finished."

Mr Qasim was detained after he arrived in Australia on a small boat in 1998.

He claims to be from the disputed territory of Kashmir and says he fled because his Muslim faith put his life at risk.

Before the Australian government offered him a special visa last month, he had asked to be returned to India rather than spend the rest of his life in detention.

But India refused to recognise his nationality and would not accept him.

Mr Qasim had applied for asylum with 80 countries but all refused to take him, including Australia which maintained he failed to prove his nationality.

Mr Qasim is expected to remain at Glenside hospital until at least Monday before moving in with an elderly Adelaide couple who will become his carers.

"They treat me like a son and I will live with them," he told reporters.

Under the terms of the visa, Mr Qasim will be allowed to work and have access to Centrelink benefits and Medicare.

He must also agree to be deported if and when he can return home but his deportation is only a remote possibility given no country is willing to take him.

"He really wants to work and get a job but he hasn't thought about what he wants to do yet," Mr Qasim's lawyer Claire O'Connor said.

Labor has welcomed Mr Qasim's release, but says there should be no strings attached to his visa.

"I welcome that he's no longer going to be in detention but I'm sorely disappointed that the government still can't bring itself to give him permanency," Mr Burke said.

Australian Democrats deputy leader Andrew Bartlett said Mr Qasim's release should never overshadow how "disgraceful" it was that he was locked up for so long.

"He has suffered enormously, his health has been harmed enormously as a direct result of the government policy and the government's law," he told the ABC.

"And whilst it's great he's out, the government should still be condemned for what they have done to this man."

He said he had enduring concerns about Mr Qasim's long-term security in Australia.

Greens senator Kerry Nettle also said the government should give Mr Qasim certainty and grant him a permanent visa.

2005 AAP

After 7 years, Qasim can go free

Peter Qasim has been handed a visa. (File photo)ABC

Australia's longest-serving immigration detainee, Peter Qasim, has been granted a visa.

The Federal Government announced several weeks ago that Mr Qasim would be released pending health and character checks, after seven years in detention.

He has been at Adelaide's Glenside psychiatric hospital.

Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone says Mr Qasim received his visa last night after a series of Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) checks.

"My advice is he's had discussions with the people who were at Glenside over the weekend and agreed that he will probably stay there until his particular doctors are working, which will be on Monday," Senator Vanstone told Channel Nine.

"He'll make a decision about what he does but the plain facts are, at law he's entitled to walk out."

Mr Qasim's lawyer, Alexis Goodstone, says the detainee is excited by the prospect of freedom.

"He's very excited," she said. "The tone of his voice changed yesterday following the grant of the visa and I could really detect a major amount of excitement in his voice and just excitement of being free and being able to pursue some kind of normal life."

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