Djokovic row highlights plight of asylum seekers in Australia

As rain pelts the gang exterior Novak Djokovic’s detention centre in Melbourne, shouts of “free Novak” alternate with “free refugees” as followers stand alongside activists and anti-vaccine protesters.

The vaccine-sceptical tennis ace was positioned within the centre earlier this week, his visa revoked for failing to fulfill Australia’s robust pandemic entry restrictions.

In the gang of about 50 those that gathered for a second day of protest on Friday, some displayed posters of the nine-time Australian Open champion whereas others held anti-vaccine placards.

A bunch referred to as Grandmothers for Refugees voiced help for individuals detained by the federal government.

Draped in flags and taking part in nationalistic songs, some Serbians within the crowd celebrated Orthodox Christmas Day on the protest.

It is unclear how lengthy Djokovic – who has declared himself in opposition to necessary vaccination and was given a medical exemption – can be held on the Melbourne facility.

A courtroom is ready to listen to his authorized problem in opposition to his visa cancellation on Monday.

djokovic supportersSupporters of Serbian tennis participant Novak Djokovic rally exterior the Park Hotel [Loren Elliott/Reuters]

The Park Hotel

Just 4 kilometres (2.5 miles) from the luxurious metropolis lodges the place many of the different gamers on the Australian Open are staying, the Park Hotel, a gray five-storey constructing with locked home windows in an inner-city suburb, is formally generally known as an “alternative place of detention”.

Inside on the second ground are round 30 males from a number of nations who had been evacuated for medical therapy in 2020 from Australian detention centres within the impoverished South Pacific island nations Papua New Guinea and Nauru, now trapped in Australia’s hardline immigration system.

Detainees can’t go away and no one is allowed in or out besides employees.

The constructing was graffitied with the slogan “free them all” by refugee supporters on Thursday night time, when two individuals had been arrested as police tried to clear the realm.

A detainee caught up an indication studying “I am looking for my freedom” on one of many home windows.

australia detention centreSigns hold within the home windows of the Park Hotel [Sandra Sanders/Reuters]

The facility gained notoriety final 12 months when a hearth within the constructing pressured refugees and asylum seekers to be evacuated, and maggots had been allegedly discovered within the meals.

“We are stuck in our room. There is no fresh air. We don’t have any place for training. There is no gym here. It’s very hard,” mentioned Hossein Latifi, a 32-year-old Iranian who was detained on Nauru in 2013.

For a long time, Australia has had a compulsory detention coverage for anybody arriving and not using a visa, and to discourage individuals from arriving by boat, it arrange offshore detention centres in Nauru and on PNG’s Manus Island.

Manus was shut in 2016 after being deemed unlawful, whereas the Nauru centre stays open.

In response to critics, the federal government in 2019 started permitting critically sick refugees to be quickly transferred to Australia for medical therapy.

Latifi was delivered to Australia in 2020 and initially held in one other facility earlier than he was moved to the Park Hotel 4 months in the past. He mentioned he doesn’t know the way lengthy he can be held there or the place he may go subsequent.

“We are refugees, we are innocent people – we’ve not committed any crime. They just keep me like hostage here,” Latifi instructed Reuters information company by cellphone from his room, the place he videoed a gaggle of round 100 individuals throughout the road calling for Djokovic and the refugees to be freed.

australia detention centrePro-refugee protesters exhibit on the Park Hotel [Loren Elliott/Reuters]

Some of the group of asylum seekers have been held on the resort for almost two years, with a number of complaining about situations, together with poor catering.

“It’s such low quality and we’ve also been served with maggots and mould in our bread,” mentioned Adnan Choopani, one other Iranian who was first detained 9 years in the past when he was 15.

The resort can also be getting used to quarantine travellers who’ve examined optimistic for COVID-19.

Choopani and Latifi each wished Djokovic nicely, though Latifi famous the tennis celebrity was dealing with being held for “just a few days”, slightly than 9 years.

Choopani mentioned he drew some power from the highlight the well-known new resident had positioned on the resort.

“I don’t wish Australian detention for nobody,” Choopani mentioned. “Novak, you are not alone. You have lots of supporters, we love you, we want to see you succeed … we wish you all luck and wish you freedom, like how we wish for ourselves.”

Djokovic’s detention has sparked worldwide scrutiny, with the Serbian authorities demanding explanations.

“Djokovic is not a criminal, terrorist or illegal migrant, but was treated that way by the Australian authorities which causes an understandable indignation of his fans and citizens of Serbia,” a international ministry assertion mentioned.

The nation’s president, prime minister and international minister have issued a sequence of nationalist-tinged remarks brimming with anger on the therapy of the nationwide hero.

In fiery remarks at a Belgrade rally, his father Srdjan Djokovic instructed a crowd in his son was the sufferer of a “political witch hunt” and “corona fascism”.

His mom Djina Djokovic instructed reporters on the rally: “They are keeping him as a prisoner. It is just not fair. It is not human.”

australia detention centreThe resort can also be getting used to quarantine travellers who’ve examined optimistic for COVID-19 [Sandra Sanders/Reuters]

In Australia, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has defended revoking Djokovic’s visa.

“Rules are rules and there are no special cases,” he mentioned.

Many Australians, who’ve endured nearly two years of travel bans and lockdowns, had been outraged after they realized the participant was given a vaccine exemption.

Tennis gamers appeared divided, however some rallied round Novak.

“Look, I definitely believe in taking action, I got vaccinated because of others and for my mum’s health, but how we are handling Novak’s situation is bad, really bad,” mentioned Australian star Nick Kyrgios.

“This is one of our great champions but at the end of the day, he is human,” he mentioned on social media.

Rafael Nadal, in the meantime, mentioned he felt sorry for Djokovic however added the Serb might be taking part in “without a problem” if he had wished to.

“I think if he wanted, he would be playing here in Australia without a problem,” mentioned Nadal.

“He made his own decisions, and everybody is free to take their own decisions, but then there are some consequences. Of course, I don’t like the situation that is happening. In some way, I feel sorry for him. But at the same time, he knew the conditions since a lot of months ago, so he makes his own decision.”

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