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22 January 2021 – Australia

A. MC, “Medically Vulnerable Refugees in Australia Hotels Finally Freed,” Al Jazeera, 22 January 2021,
A. MC, “Medically Vulnerable Refugees in Australia Hotels Finally Freed,” Al Jazeera, 22 January 2021,

After more than a year of detention inside Melbourne hotels, 65 medically vulnerable male asylum seekers have been released. Previously confined in offshore detention facilities, the men were transferred to mainland Australia in 2019 under the now-repealed Medevac laws, so that they could receive urgent medical treatment. Since their arrival however, they have been held in hotels, including the Park Hotel and the Mantra Hotel, where they have been denied sufficient access to open space or appropriate food, subjected to “prison-like conditions” and “mental torture,” confined in rooms without adequate ventilation, and potentially exposed to COVID-19. In July 2020 a staff member working at the Mantra Hotel tested positive for the virus.

One of the detainees said of his release in a tweet: “This is the most beautiful moment of my life and one that I would like to share with you all. After 2,737 days locked up in detention – I am free. Thank you to all of the amazing people who helped me to stay strong. #GameOver.”

According to the Home Affairs Ministry, which justified the releases on a purely financial basis, all those released were granted “final departure bridging visas” which allow “individuals to temporarily reside in the Australian community while they finalise their arrangements to leave Australia.” In a statement, the ministry said: “The individuals residing in the alternative places of detention were brought to Australia temporarily for medical treatment. They are encouraged to finalise their medical treatment so they can continue on their resettlement pathway to the United States, return to Nauru or PNG or return to their home country.”

On 5 January, detainees held in the Christmas Island Detention Centre–which was reopened in August 2020 allegedly due to the pandemic’s impact upon the government’s ability to remove asylum seekers–initiated riots in protest of their detention conditions. According to one detainee who spoke to the Guardian, the facility’s management had denied detainees the opportunity to hold a peaceful protest–prompting some to react violently and set two of the compounds alight. Reportedly, detainees had been in lockdown for 22 hours a day and were denied access to workable wifi, leading to many struggling with both their physical and mental health. Describing the conditions in the facility, one refugee said, “It’s worse than jail. In jail, you know when you can go home, in detention they don’t have a timeframe for you to go home. You wait around, and you don’t know what’s happening.” Additional disturbances were also reported on 10 January.