Border Force refuses to release Mantra Hotel inmates

A group of refugee men held in conditions likened to “torture” in Melbourne have received a blow after confirmation they won’t be released.

Australian Border Force has confirmed roughly 60 men locked up in Melbourne’s Mantra Hotel for more than a year will be transferred to alternative detention but not granted visas.

The group arrived in Australia last year under the medevac legislation, which allowed asylum seekers in offshore detention to be brought to the mainland for medical treatment.

But they have since been detained in Melbourne’s Mantra Hotel after the legislation was repealed, and the government has pushed for them to leave the country.

Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge has said previously refugees should return to offshore detention or their home countries if they did not accept resettlement to the United States.

Refugee Mostafa “Moz” Azmitabar tweeted on Monday that Border Force officials had confirmed the group would be moved from the hotel. It is not known where the men will be transferred to.

Australian Border Force has said no one seeking asylum under regional processing would be resettled in Australia.

The hotel in Preston, north of Melbourne’s CBD, has become the centre of outrage after revelations over the treatment of detainees. The men are locked in their room for 23 hours a day and cannot leave the hotel for exercise.

The situation was exacerbated in July when a hotel guard contracted COVID-19. Detainees were confined to their rooms as the building underwent a deep clean.

On Thursday, protesters marked World Human Rights day outside the hotel, demanding the men’s release.

Refugee advocate and former Socceroo Craig Foster, who has visited refugees in Papua New Guinea, told the rally that Australians could no longer be blind to the plight of refugees.

“When I went to Port Moresby, I thought out of sight, out of mind was the reason this was going on. I believed at that time that if we told the stories here in Australia, this would end,” he told the rally.

“And yet today in 2020, these guys are … locked up in our cities, they’re locked up in front of us. They’re in front of us, they’re in front of our faces.

“No Australian can say any longer that we don’t know. We know, and it’s time now to bring it to an end.”

One detainee told news.com.au last week the detention equated to torture.

“For more than a year we have been locked up at the Mantra torture centre because politicians are blaming each other rather than finding a humanitarian decision,” he told news.com.au.

“The irony is that we have been transferred to Australia for medical help.”

NCA NewsWire has reached out to the Australian Border Force for comment.

It comes after The Age reported a second Melbourne hotel had been used as a makeshift detention centre since June.



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