Culture

Refugees Stuck In A Melbourne Hotel Are Pleading For Protestors To Oppose New Border Force Move

Those locked inside want protestors to come to the Mantra Hotel on Bell Street in Preston on Tuesday afternoon to show their support.

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Medevac refugees in the Mantra Hotel on Bell Street in Preston have pleaded with the Melbourne community to protest, following news they may be moved to an unnamed location.

Kurdish refugee Moz Azimi told Junkee that he was only told yesterday that he would be moved to an undisclosed location, and forced to share a room with someone else.

Mr Azimi suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder after fleeing Iran eight years ago, and said it would cause his condition to deteriorate. He was brought to Australia under the now-defunct Medevac legislation, which forced the federal government to treat refugees in need of medical attention in Australia.

He said that since coming to the Mantra more than a year ago, he hasn’t received any medical help for his condition.

“It is terrible. People look at this hotel as a 4-star hotel, but inside this floor it is a torture centre,” said Azimi . “I have been locked up in the place for more than a year. I have been transferred to Australia for medical help and we haven’t received any medication. For PTSD they didn’t give me anything. All my life I am inside a room.

“My life is a room. Inside this room I try not to die. I always fight for my freedom.”

Despite his acute mental health issues, Azimi said he was regularly subjected to being woken in the middle of the night and felt harassed by staff.

“My life is a room. Inside this room I try not to die. I always fight for my freedom.”

Although he has not received any medical attention for his PTSD, Azimi has been told he’ll be taken for a dental appointment on Tuesday at 4pm. But he was not brought to the hotel to be treated for a dental problem.

“They are taking me at 4pm, but I don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said. “They’re taking me because I talk with the media and they don’t want anyone to know about it.”

Moz Azimi, left. Photo: Jim Malo

Soon after the news broke Monday afternoon, the Campaign Against Racism and Fascism launched protests outside the hotel.

“We called an overnight community picket out the front of the hotel,” said .CARF leader Omar Hassan. “By 9pm there were more than 200 people present.

“That was done with the blessing of refugees inside. That’s what they want from us so they were happy to oblige. We want to use this moment to put pressure onto the government.”

Mr Hassan said it was a peaceful protest aside from one moment when a police officer pepper-sprayed someone.

“There was one pretty random pepper spraying of a protestor,” he said. “I think he was too close to a gung-ho police officer’s face with a megaphone.”

Former Greens candidate and NGO manager Alex Bhathal spoke at the protests. She said she’d come to know the men inside well in recent months and agreed with Azimi’s assessment that indefinite detention amounted to torture.

“I used to try not to use the word, but I’ve been visiting detention centers since 2000 and it is torture. I can see what it does to people,” said Bhathal.

“As a social worker, I’ve done a lot of study into trauma and I can see that this is about exerting conditions of trauma in a way that it’s like psychological coercion.

I used to try not to use the word, but I’ve been visiting detention centers since 2000 and it is torture.

“We’re not flailing people any more. In most countries now we’re not subjecting them to strong physical torture, but we’re doing something that’s just as bad.

“We’re setting up the conditions where they then do that to themselves.”

Azimi and the protestors are appealing to the government to allow them to live in one of the 100+ homes which have pledged to open their doors to the men in the Mantra by granting them visas.

“I love people in Australia and I believe there are many wonderful people here,” said Azimi.

“I feel comfortable with them and they are like my family. For seven years, I have been in touch with these people. I feel like they are my family and I want to live with my family.

“Why do they play games with our lives? They make contracts for wasting my life and torturing us. We are not criminals, we are people seeking safety and freedom.”

The protests will continue from mid-afternoon on Tuesday into the night.

Feature image courtesy of Daniel Taylor