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

MELBOURNE, Jan 7 (Reuters) – The detention of earth range one tennis participant Novak Djokovic has drawn consideration to the plight of scores of asylum seekers who are housed in the identical Australian lodge getting applied as a makeshift immigration detention facility.

Just 4 kilometres (2.5 miles) from the high-class city resorts where by most of the other players at the Australian Open are remaining, the Park Lodge is a grey five-storey making with locked windows in an inner town suburb.

8 police guarded the entrance on Friday. Spray painted in vibrant yellow on the facade had been the text “Free of charge THEM ALL”.

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The arrival of a single of the world’s wealthiest athletes led to incongruous scenes outside the lodge, with customers of the Serbian expatriate group draped in the national flag and playing traditional audio joining refugee activists in protests.

Within on the 2nd floor, 1 previously mentioned Djokovic, are 30 males from various international locations who had been evacuated for healthcare procedure in 2020 from Australian detention centres in the impoverished South Pacific island nations Papua New Guinea and Nauru.

“We are stuck in our home. There is no fresh new air. We don’t have any place for teaching. There is no health club here. It truly is quite tricky,” reported Hossein Latifi, a 32-year-aged Iranian who was detained on Nauru in 2013.

For a long time, Australia has had a mandatory detention policy for any one arriving without a visa, and to deter men and women arriving by boat, it established up offshore detention centres in Nauru and on PNG’s Manus Island. Manus was shut in 2016 after currently being deemed illegal, although the Nauru centre stays open.

In response to critics, the govt in 2019 started enabling critically ill refugees to be temporarily transferred to Australia for clinical treatment method.

Latifi was brought to Australia in 2020 and originally held in another facility ahead of he was moved to the Park Resort 4 months in the past. He said he does not know how long he will be held there or wherever he may well go subsequent.

A signal contacting on Serbian tennis participant Novak Djokovic to aid the refugees currently being held in the Park Lodge, where by the star athlete is also thought to be held though he stays in Australia, in Melbourne, Australia, January 7, 2022. REUTERS/Sandra Sanders

“We are refugees, we are innocent persons – we’ve not dedicated any crime. They just retain me like hostage here,” Latifi instructed Reuters by cell phone from his home, in which he videoed a group of all around 100 persons throughout the avenue calling for Djokovic and the refugees to be freed.


Some of the team of asylum seekers have been held at the resort for almost two several years, with a number of complaining about conditions, including very poor catering.

“It’s these types of small good quality and we’ve also been served with maggots and mould in our bread,” said Adnan Choopani, one more Iranian who was initially detained 9 several years in the past when he was 15.

The hotel is also remaining made use of to quarantine travellers who have analyzed positive for COVID-19.

Worsening the condition, there had been numerous fires in the setting up on Dec. 23, detrimental the 3rd and fourth flooring. All through an evacuation, detainees and COVID-19 conditions have been held alongside one another resulting in some detainees becoming infected, Latifi mentioned.

Australia’s Border Force did not right away react to concerns about circumstances at the hotel.

Choopani and Latifi both equally wished Djokovic effectively, though Latifi famous the tennis celebrity was going through getting held for “just a couple of days”, relatively than nine several years.

Choopani explained he drew some power from the spotlight the famous new resident experienced placed on the resort.

“I you should not wish Australian detention for no one,” Choopani stated. “Novak, you are not by itself. You have a lot of supporters, we love you, we want to see you thrive … we would like you all luck and would like you liberty, like how we wish for ourselves.”

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Reporting by Sonali Paul, additional reporting by Stefica Nicol Bikes modifying by Jane Wardell

Our Requirements: The Thomson Reuters Rely on Rules.