Protesters are seen on the roof of the Mantra Hotel in Preston. Picture: James Ross/AAP
Protesters are seen on the roof of the Mantra Hotel in Preston. Picture: James Ross/AAP

‘Torture’: Inside Melbourne hotel hell

Behind closed doors on the third floor of a hotel in Melbourne's north, 62 men from all over the world say they are experiencing "torture".

They are locked in their rooms 23 hours a day. The other hour is designated for exercise, but not in the sense that you or I know it.

They can't go for a jog in the park and they are supervised the entire time.

It's here, at the Mantra Hotel in Preston, 10km from the Melbourne CBD, that "Moz" spends all his days.

Mostafa Azimitabar, a Kurdish refugee, was medically evacuated from Manus Island after a six-year stint and has been separated from the community he wants to call home by glass and four walls.

"For six years we were tortured at the Manus Island detention centre," he told news.com.au on Thursday, as protesters gathered outside the Mantra for a World Human Rights Day vigil and to call for end to his detention.

 

The Mantra in Preston, Melbourne which houses asylum seekers. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Ian Currie
The Mantra in Preston, Melbourne which houses asylum seekers. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Ian Currie

 

Refugees at the Mantra. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Ian Currie
Refugees at the Mantra. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Ian Currie

 

"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.

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

Those locked up at the Mantra were sent to Australia after the medevac legislation came into effect in March last year.

It allowed refugees and asylum seekers in offshore detention to be transferred to Australia for medical help. But they are in limbo now after the law was repealed.

The Morrison Government wants them to leave again - to go back to PNG or to seek resettlement in another country, including the United States.

But Moz and others say they still need medical help and that they are being tortured while locked up in Australia.

"I suffer from asthma, I have PTSD, mental problems and they didn't do anything, they haven't done anything, not just for me, for everyone here," Moz told the ABC last December.

One year on, his condition has deteriorated further.

 

The Mantra on Bell Street has been holding detainees for more than a year.
The Mantra on Bell Street has been holding detainees for more than a year.

 

Supporters of asylum seekers protest outside the Mantra Hotel in Preston. Picture: Michael Dodge/AAP
Supporters of asylum seekers protest outside the Mantra Hotel in Preston. Picture: Michael Dodge/AAP

 

Refugee advocate and retired soccer star Craig Foster, who visited Moz on Thursday, said the 34-year-old was looking worse than when he saw him in 2019.

"It's something I never thought I'd see in my life," Foster said via loudspeaker outside the Preston hotel which keeps its guests segregated from the refugees.

"You've lost weight, my friend. I can see the stress on your face. I can see what eight years is doing to a human being."

In a video he filmed for social media, Foster said no refugee should be kept in detention for as long as the Mantra refugees have been.

"These guys are in their eighth year of detention. Eight years of their life have been taken. And they've done nothing wrong - they're refugees. And what we're doing to these people goes to the very heart of who we are as a nation.

"As a country we have to be much better than this."

The already difficult conditions for those locked up at the Mantra were made more difficult when the pandemic's second wave hit Melbourne.

Refugees said they felt like "sitting ducks" when a security guard at the hotel was diagnosed with COVID-19 in July.

Workers in Hazmat suits were tasked with a deep clean of the third floor while refugees were kept inside their rooms.

A spokesman for Australian Border Force told news.com.au 180 people were brought to Australia from Nauru and PNG.

"Prior to transfer, each transitory person was made aware of the temporary nature of their stay in Australia and that they would be accommodated at an immigration detention facility," he said.

 

 

"In line with Australian Government policy, no one under regional processing arrangements will be settled in Australia."

The spokesman said all detainees are given access to "seven different outdoor sessions each day" and that "some detainees choose not to partake in any of these outdoor sessions".

Acting immigration minister Alan Tudge said earlier this year that refugees should either return to Manus, Nauru or their home country "unless they are accepted for resettlement in the US".

"We'll keep them in the hotels in detention until they exercise one of those options. And that's what we want them to do," he told the ABC.

"We've always been very clear that people don't get the right to come permanently into Australia … They've had their medical treatment and now it is, under the legislation, right for them to return home."

rohan.smith1@news.com.au | @ro_smith

 

 

Originally published as 'Torture': Inside Melbourne hotel hell



Alleged cop biter to be extradited from Queensland for trial

Premium Content Alleged cop biter to be extradited from Queensland for trial

**WARNING GRAPHIC CONTENT** A South Lismore man is accused of...

Temperatures set to drop below average in parts of region

Premium Content Temperatures set to drop below average in parts of region

Brrr – there’s going to be some cold mornings this week.

Jobs on offer ahead of 2021 Australian Census

Premium Content Jobs on offer ahead of 2021 Australian Census

The Australian Bureau of Statistics is currently recruiting to help deliver the...