A last-minute protest has popped up outside the Mantra Bell City Hotel in Melbourne to stop around 60 asylum seekers inside the building from being transferred to yet another form of detention.
The 60-odd men were initially taken to the hotel from Manus Island 16 months ago to receive medical treatment under the now-repealed medevac law.
With the Department of Defense’s contract with Mantra Hotels due finish at the end of the year, people had hoped these men would be released into the community.
However, it has been revealed that the men will instead be transferred to yet another detention facility as early as Monday night, despite there being around 100 families in the community putting their hands up to host the men.
Breaking : Today ABF at 1:30 pm announced that all the refugees (who have been locked up in the Mantra prison for more than a year) will be transferred to another detention soon. NO VISA. #auspoI
— Moz (Mostafa Azimitabar) (@AzimiMoz) December 14, 2020
A snap protest was called at 9 PM on Monday, with activists calling on people to come down and make their voices heard.
“This is another deliberate act by the Australian Government to break the spirit of the refugees inside the hotel and their supporters outside,” protest organiser from the Campaign Against Racism and Fascism Nahui Ludekens said in a statement.
“We have to resist this attempt by the government to keep the refugees away from the community and demand that they be released immediately.”
This is our national shame: these people have been imprisoned in the Mantra hotel for more than a year. I shed a tear when I saw them tonight. We should all be here. #RefugeesWelcome pic.twitter.com/l2xnSTo71x
— Gemma Cafarella (@gemmacaf) December 14, 2020
The government’s current policy means that no refugees held who were held on Nauru or Manus Island will be allowed to settle in Australia.
That’s despite the fact almost all of these men have already been found to be genuine refugees in the eyes of the law.
“Transitory people are encouraged to finalise their medical treatment in Australia so they can continue on their resettlement pathway to the United States, return to Nauru or PNG, or for those who are not refugees, return to their home country,” a spokesperson for the Department of Home Affairs said.
For many, returning to their home country is simply not an option.
The conditions the men face are already pretty bad. They themselves plus countless refugee advocates have described being locked in hotel rooms for 70 weeks as “torture”.
Now it appears that the government is going out of its way in the middle of a pandemic to prolong these conditions for as long as possible, even if that means taking them to another facility.