Asylum seekers in Melbourne detention say they were served 'maggots and mould' for dinner

The complaints about food come after multiple fires broke out at the same facility last week.

Photos showing maggots and mouldy bread that asylum seekers say was served to them for dinner

Photos showing maggots and mouldy bread that asylum seekers say was served to them for dinner Source: Mohammad Joy Miah/Twitter

Asylum seekers in immigration detention in Melbourne say they're being put in danger after allegedly being given meals with maggots and mould to eat.

Photos seen by SBS News and others posted to social media of food allegedly served to detainees at the Park Hotel in Carlton on Monday night show maggots next to a bowl of chicken and broccoli, and mouldy pieces of bread.

“I was just shocked. The food they’ve been delivering is putting people in danger,” Mustafa Salah, an Iraqi asylum seeker being held at the facility, told SBS News on Wednesday.

“Even an animal cannot eat this type of food.”

A photo taken by an asylum seeker showing maggots on the lid of a plastic container.
A photo taken by an asylum seeker showing maggots on the lid of a plastic container. Source: Facebook/Mehdi Ali

Hossein Latifi, another Iranian asylum at the facility, said he ate his meal on Monday night but afterwards got a sore stomach and vomited.

"Two times I did vomit. I also vomited from a tuna meal a few days ago," Mr Latifi said. "This is not healthy, this is not good food."

Mr Salah said he’s lost three kilograms in recent weeks as he's not been eating the food he's being served.

“We keep telling them we can’t eat this type of food but they’ve not been listening,” Mr Salah said. “I’ve lost weight because I've just been eating nuts.”

Mr Salah was 14 years old when he sought asylum from Iraq with his father, Salah Mustafa. The pair were detained on Nauru for several years before they were transferred to Australia under the medevac legislation in 2019.

Now 23, Mr Salah has been in Australia's detention system for eight years.

“I’m feeling very bad. I feel like I can’t handle it anymore,” he said. "My dad is very worried about me and I'm very worried about him."

Ian Rintoul, a spokesperson at Refugee Action Coalition, said he was “horrified” by photos he saw of the mouldy bread and maggots.

“[The maggots] were alive in the plastic dish… People refused to eat it and demanded that it be taken away,” he said.

“There was no other food bought to replace it. So they either ate the maggot-infested food, the mouldy bread or went hungry. Most went hungry.”

Mr Rintoul said there has been a long history of complaints about the food served to asylum seekers in immigration detention.

Muslim immigration detainees in Brisbane’s Kangaroo Point hotel , saying they had not been given certified halal food for more than 12 months.

And back in 2015, Guardian Australia reported human teeth were found in a meal served to an asylum seeker in the Manus Island detention centre.

“People, I think, are anxious enough about the situation in the Park Hotel… They've been kept in detention for, you know, another couple of years,” Mr Rintoul said.

“That this could be served as food is the ultimate insult really.”

The complaints about food come after multiple fires broke out at Park Hotel last week on level four and level three, with one detainee ending up in hospital after suffering smoke inhalation.

Men complained that they were not safely evacuated to the outside of the building, with footage seen by SBS News showing the men were kept on level one of the hotel and the front doors guarded by police.

Mr Salah said men are now being kept on level two of the hotel and cannot access the gym or laundry, with level three and four of the hotel sustaining significant fire damage.

It remains unclear as to how the multiple fires broke out.

“There's no laundry, we are washing our clothes by hand,” Mr Salah said. “There’s no gym and no fresh air.”

Refugees gesture towards protesters at the Park Hotel in Melbourne, Saturday, January 09, 2021. (AAP Image/Erik Anderson) NO ARCHIVING
Medevac refugees and asylum seekers gesture towards protesters at the Park Hotel in Melbourne, 9 January, 2021. Source: AAP/ Erik Anderson

There are around 70 medevac asylum seekers left in immigration detention, while around 120 people brought to Australia under the scrapped scheme have been released.

Around 33 men remain detained in the Park Hotel, while offshore, roughly 124 asylum seekers remain in Papua New Guinea and 100 in Nauru.

Mr Rintoul said the Park Hotel should be closed and those who were brought to Australia under the medevac legislation should be released.

The Australian Border Force did not respond to specific questions about the food, but a spokesperson said it and the Department of Home Affairs were “committed to the health and welfare of detainees within the Australian immigration detention network”.

“There are a range of services provided to detainees … including access to dedicated indoor and outdoor exercise and activity areas,” they said in a statement.

“Detainees also have access to appropriate food (accommodating dietary and cultural requirements), educational programs, cultural, recreational and sporting activities, internet and computer facilities, televisions, and clean, comfortable sleeping quarters.”

The spokesperson said management of detainees “is carried out with primary consideration given to the safety and security of all individuals, staff, and the public”.

5 min read
Published 29 December 2021 at 12:29pm
By Eden Gillespie, Arianna Lucente
Source: SBS News