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Australia: Djokovic saga sheds light on government's 'shameful refugee policies'

Responding to the judgement delivered in tennis star Novak Djokovic’s appeal against the Australian government’s decision to cancel his visa, Dr Graham Thom, Amnesty International Australia’s Refugee Advisor, said: 

“Djokovic got a brief glimpse of what refugees have been experiencing for years because of the Australian government’s shameful refugee policies. 

“If something positive can come from this saga it’s that a global spotlight has again shone on this dreadful situation which is in violation of international law and which has seen the suffering and death of people whose only ‘crime’ was to seek safety on Australian shores.

“Whether it’s within our borders in the so-called ‘alternative places of detention’ or in Nauru, people trapped indefinitely in this brutal system are suffering. They can’t work, send their kids to school, play the sports they love, access health care or plan for their futures. And many suffer trauma and illness every day because of their experiences in detention.

“These people have fled some of the most dangerous places on earth, and they have a right to freedom, safety and a bright future for themselves and their families. They need our urgent help. Australians can’t stand by any longer while politicians turn a blind eye to people’s suffering.

“There are other options. New Zealand has offered to take 150 refugees a year, for the past five years. We call on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to end this unjust system, accept New Zealand’s offer and allow people to finally begin to rebuild their lives.” 

Refugees in detention

There are approximately 40 people still being held within the Park Hotel ‘Alternative Places of Detention’ (APODs) which are hotels or motels used by the Government to house immigration detainees instead of larger facilities. The majority of people in the APODs are recognised refugees and were transferred from processing centres in Papua New Guinea and Nauru for urgent medical treatment.  

Mehdi Ali, a 24-year-old refugee from Iran detained in the same Park Hotel, told Amnesty Australia:

“The air inside my room is a jail, a misery that has been chasing me for almost nine years”.  

There is no clear explanation why these men continue to be locked up in APODs and many have also been released without explanation. In December 2019, the Australian Human Rights Commission said the motels were not appropriate places of detention, given their lack of dedicated facilities and restrictions on freedom of movement and access to open space. 

Australian government policy

The Australian Government has been sending people seeking asylum by boat to facilities in Papua New Guinea and Nauru since 2012 in a policy designed to deter and punish those seeking protection. 

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