In visa limbo, Djokovic housed with asylum seekers in Australian hotel


MELBOURNE : The detention of world primary tennis participant Novak Djokovic has drawn consideration to the plight of scores of asylum seekers who’re housed in the identical Australian hotel getting used as a makeshift immigration detention facility.

Just 4 kilometres (2.5 miles) from the luxurious metropolis resorts the place many of the different gamers on the Australian Open are staying, the Park Hotel is a gray five-storey constructing with locked home windows in an internal metropolis suburb.

Eight police guarded the doorway on Friday. Spray painted in vibrant yellow on the facade had been the phrases “FREE THEM ALL”.

The arrival of one of many world’s wealthiest athletes led to incongruous scenes outdoors the hotel, with members of the Serbian expatriate group draped in the nationwide flag and taking part in conventional music becoming a member of refugee activists in protests.

Inside on the second flooring, one above Djokovic, are 30 males from a number of international locations who had been evacuated for medical therapy in 2020 from Australian detention centres in the impoverished South Pacific island nations Papua New Guinea and Nauru.

“We are stuck in our room. There is no fresh air. We don’t have any place for training. There is no gym here. It’s very hard,” mentioned Hossein Latifi, a 32-year-old Iranian who was detained on Nauru in 2013.

For many years, Australia has had a compulsory detention coverage for anybody arriving with out a visa, and to discourage individuals arriving by boat, it arrange offshore detention centres in Nauru and on PNG’s Manus Island. Manus was shut in 2016 after being deemed unlawful, whereas the Nauru centre stays open.

In response to critics, the federal government in 2019 started permitting critically ailing refugees to be quickly transferred to Australia for medical therapy.

Latifi was dropped at Australia in 2020 and initially held in one other facility earlier than he was moved to the Park Hotel 4 months in the past. He mentioned he doesn’t know the way lengthy he shall be held there or the place he would possibly go subsequent.

“We are refugees, we are innocent people – we’ve not committed any crime. They just keep me like hostage here,” Latifi informed Reuters by cellphone from his room, the place he videoed a gaggle of round 100 individuals throughout the road calling for Djokovic and the refugees to be freed.


Some of the group of asylum seekers have been held on the hotel for nearly two years, with a number of complaining about situations, together with poor catering.

“It’s such low quality and we’ve also been served with maggots and mould in our bread,” mentioned Adnan Choopani, one other Iranian who was first detained 9 years in the past when he was 15.

The hotel can also be getting used to quarantine travellers who’ve examined constructive for COVID-19.

Worsening the state of affairs, there have been a number of fires in the constructing on Dec. 23, damaging the third and fourth flooring. During an evacuation, detainees and COVID-19 circumstances had been held collectively ensuing in some detainees changing into contaminated, Latifi mentioned.

Australia’s Border Force didn’t instantly reply to questions on situations on the hotel.

Choopani and Latifi each wished Djokovic properly, though Latifi famous the tennis famous person was dealing with being held for “just a few days”, reasonably than 9 years.

Choopani mentioned he drew some power from the highlight the well-known new resident had positioned on the hotel.

“I don’t wish Australian detention for nobody,” Choopani mentioned. “Novak, you are not alone. You have lots of supporters, we love you, we want to see you succeed … we wish you all luck and wish you freedom, like how we wish for ourselves.”

(Reporting by Sonali Paul, further reporting by Stefica Nicol Bikes; enhancing by Jane Wardell)

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