Australia releases refugees from Djokovic detention hotel: campaigners

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Sydney (AFP) – Australia on Thursday released the last refugees held at a former hotel where tennis superstar Novak Djokovic was spectacularly held earlier this year, campaigners said.

The eight men held at the Melbourne facility were originally part of a group of refugees and asylum seekers transferred to Australia from offshore facilities to receive medical treatment. They were then detained for several years.

Djokovic’s detention in January for entering the country without a Covid-19 vaccination for the Australian Open drew global attention to the plight of refugees and asylum seekers held alongside him in rooms at the Park Hotel .

“Three months after the media around the world saw Novak Djokovic coming and going from the Park Hotel, the refugees who were held alongside him are finally free,” said Graham Thom of Amnesty Australia.

“Sadly, these men were held needlessly for more than two years in hotels in Australia, following the years of trauma they suffered overseas.”

The Park Hotel detainees were among about 20 people released from immigration detention across Australia on Thursday, according to refugee advocates.

The government has not issued a statement on the latest release of refugees. AFP has contacted the Australian Department of the Interior for comment.

Mostafa Azimitabar, a Kurd who fled Iran and spent 2,737 days in Australian migrant detention – both at sea and in a hotel in Melbourne – said on Thursday that “these hotels should never again be used for us to possess”.

“We celebrate this day with everyone who stood by us!” he tweeted.

Last week, Home Affairs told senators that 31 “transitional people” – a term used to define refugees and asylum seekers transferred for medical treatment – remained in immigration detention.

The Asylum Seekers Resource Center estimated that after Thursday’s releases around 10 people remained in detention in Australia – but it was unclear why they had not yet been released into the community or if they one day would be.

As part of Australia’s hardline immigration policy, asylum seekers trying to reach the country by boat have for years been sent to remote detention centers on Papua New Manus Island. -Guinea and the Pacific island nation of Nauru.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison once had a ship-shaped trophy in his office, emblazoned with the words ‘I stopped these’ – a reference to his time as immigration minister, when the ships were stopped migrants was his top priority.

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