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Asylum Seekers Beg For Action Following Djokovic’s Release

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Asylum Seekers Beg For Action Following Djokovic’s Release

Asylum seekers have issued a plea to Australians to not forget them following Novak Djokovic's release from immigration detention.

Djokovic's was ordered to be released earlier this week after he was detained at Melbourne Airport by Australian Border Force (ABF) officers over issues surround his visa.

A federal court has since quashing the visa cancellation and ruled he can enter Australia.

But his situation drew attention to the plight of asylum seekers who are being held in detention facilities.

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Michael Thomas / Alamy Stock Photo
Michael Thomas / Alamy Stock Photo

SBS News spoke with Somalian asylum seeker Ismail Hussein, who has spent more than two years in detention facilities in Melbourne.

He said he had never seen so many protestors and media persons at the facilities in the time he's been there as he had over the last week.

"No-one cares about us refugees but him, he's a celebrity," Hussein told SBS News.

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"He's lucky, just a few days and he could get out and we've been here for nine years."

Jay Kogler / Alamy Stock Photo
Jay Kogler / Alamy Stock Photo

Protestors were seen at Melbourne's Park Hotel last week chanting for the release of Djokovic, with Serbian press describing the facility where 32 asylum seekers and refugees are detained as 'the horror hotel'.

Djokovic's mother said her son was treated like 'a prisoner' and that the hotel was dirty and riddled with bugs.

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Advocates have tried to use the attention on Djokovic to create awareness about the situation for others at the Park Hotel, where they have petitioned for over a year.

REUTERS / Alamy Stock Photo
REUTERS / Alamy Stock Photo

Gemma Harben, who has been protesting at the facility since December 2020 told Guardian Australia that media attention has given the refugees hope.

"They've felt forgotten and ignored for so long and finally people turn up, it might not be for them, but people are outside the building," Harben said.

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"They're on the international news. To see this kind of attention disappear again will be heartbreaking."

The hope now is that the additional attention will help Australians become more aware of the plight of refugees and put more energy behind the fight to free them.

REUTERS / Alamy Stock Photo
REUTERS / Alamy Stock Photo

Hussein said the conditions in the hotel were the least of his concerns, telling SBS News the mental health of those in detention was a bigger concern.

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"All I care about is my freedom," he said. "I feel like I'm losing my mind here."

Hussein fled to Australia by boat in 2013 after escalating violence in Somalia. He spent six years on Manus Island before being moved to Melbourne in 2019 for medical treatment.

According to the ABC he has still not received that medical treatment.

REUTERS / Alamy Stock Photo
REUTERS / Alamy Stock Photo

In the last few months, the Park Hotel has seen a Covid-19 outbreak and a fire that left one detainee hospitalised from smoke inhalation.

"Everything is crazy here," Hussein said. "We don't have any freedom of movement ... there is no fresh air ... Sometimes I don't leave my room for days."

Residents near the hotel have said they didn't even know the facility was being used to detain refugees.

Carolyn Graydon, principal solicitor for the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, told ABC the Park Hotel was 'unhygienic' and there was a 'lack of adherence to proper risk management processes'.

"These men should be immediately released," she said.

Featured Image Credit: REUTERS / Alamy Stock Photo

Topics: News, Melbourne, Novak Djokovic, Australia

Hannah Blackiston
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