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Australia frees refugees from Djokovic detention hotel

SYDNEY (AFP) – Australia yesterday released the last refugees held in a former hotel where tennis superstar Novak Djokovic was spectacularly detained earlier this year, activists said.

The eight men held in the Melbourne facility were originally in a group of refugees and asylum seekers transferred to Australia from offshore facilities to receive medical care. They were then detained for several years.

Djokovic’s detention in January for entering the country without a COVID-19 vaccination for the Australian Open drew global attention to the fate of the refugees and asylum seekers held alongside him in rooms at the Park Hotel.

“Three months since the world’s media watched Novak Djokovic come and go from the Park Hotel, the refugees who were detained alongside him are finally free,” Graham Thom of Amnesty Australia said. “Sadly these men were unnecessarily detained for more than two years in hotels in Australia, following the years of trauma they suffered offshore.”

The Park Hotel detainees were among around 20 people freed yesterday from immigration detention across Australia, according to refugee advocates.

The government did not release a statement on the latest release of refugees. AFP has reached out to Australia’s Department of Home Affairs for comment.

Mostafa Azimitabar, a Kurd who fled Iran and spent 2,737 days in Australian immigration detention – both offshore and in a Melbourne hotel – said yesterday that “these hotels should never again be used to detain us”.

“We celebrate this day with everyone who has stood with us!” he tweeted.