Refugees Detained in Melbourne’s Mantra Hotel Speak Out: “Our Lockdown Is Indefinite”

Interview by
Chris Breen

Since 2012, Australia has sent 4,183 refugees to be detained in Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Nauru, in breach of the 1951 Refugee Convention, to which Australia remains a signatory. As of October 2020, 290 refugees are in offshore detention while 870 have been resettled in the United States. One thousand two hundred twenty-six refugees have been sent to Australia and are living in the community on final departure bridging visas. This includes children and their families from Nauru brought to Australia as a result of pressure from the refugee movement.

However, there is another group of refugees who have reached Australian soil and are being detained in a continuous, indefinite lockdown. They were transported here under the short-lived Medevac Bill passed in early 2019, when the Liberal–National Coalition briefly lost its parliamentary majority. Although the law was repealed after ten months, while it was operative it forced the authorities to transport 192 refugees to Australia for medical treatment.

Liberal PM Scott Morrison always hated Medevac. In order to undermine the legislation and depict refugees as a threat, his Coalition government has made sure that most refugees brought here for medical treatment are being held in conditions that are, by many accounts, worse than offshore detention. The Department of Immigration sequestered hotels for just this purpose. The main two are the Mantra Hotel in Melbourne and the Kangaroo Point Hotel in Brisbane.

Refugee advocate Chris Breen spoke with two refugees, Mostafa Azimitabar (Moz) and Ramsiyar Sabanayagam (Ramsi), who are indefinitely detained in the Mantra Hotel “alternative place of detention” (APOD) in Preston, Melbourne. In total, they have spent six years detained on Manus Island in PNG, and now over one year detained in Melbourne. Protests inside and outside detention are ongoing, as are other efforts to free them.

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