Australia releases refugees from Djokovic detention hotel: activists

Australia releases refugees from Djokovic detention hotel: activists
Refugees and asylum seekers who were held in the same hotel facility as Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic in Melboune, Australia were released on Thursday following a detention period lasting several years.
3 min read
A refugee in Melbourne's Park Hotel, where tennis layer Novak Djokovic was previously held earlier this year [Getty]

Australia on Thursday freed the last refugees held in a former hotel where tennis superstar Novak Djokovic was spectacularly detained earlier this year, activists said.

The eight men held in the Melbourne facility were originally in a group of refugees and asylum seekers transferred to Australia from offshore facilities to receive medical care. 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 fate of the refugees and asylum seekers held alongside him in rooms at the Park Hotel.

"Three months since the world's media watched Novak Djokovic come and go from the Park Hotel, the refugees who were detained alongside him are finally free," Graham Thom of Amnesty Australia said.

"Sadly these men were unnecessarily detained for more than two years in hotels in Australia, following the years of trauma they suffered offshore."

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

The government did not release a statement on the latest release of refugees. AFP has reached out to Australia's Department of Home Affairs for comment.

Mostafa Azimitabar, a Kurd who fled Iran and spent 2,737 days in Australian immigration detention- both offshore and in a Melbourne hotel- said Thursday that "these hotels should never again be used to detain us".

"We celebrate this day with everyone who has stood with us!" he tweeted.

Last week, Home Affairs told senators that 31 "transitory persons"- a term used to define refugees and asylum seekers transferred for medical treatment- remained in immigration detention.

The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre estimated that after Thursday's releases, some 10 people remained in detention around Australia- but it was unclear why they had not yet been released into the community or if they would ever be.

Under Australia's hardline immigration policy, asylum seekers who attempt to reach the country by boat have for years been sent to remote detention centres on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island and the Pacific island nation of Nauru.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison once had a boat-shaped trophy in his office, emblazoned with the words "I Stopped These"- a reference to his time as immigration minister, when stopping migrant vessels was his top priority.