Last remaining Park Hotel detainees among 20 released from immigration detention, advocates say

Eight of the 20 people that have been released from Australia's immigration detention were in Melbourne's Park Hotel, where the World No.1 tennis star Novak Djokovic was temporarily detained.

Police stand guard outside the refugee detention hotel, the Park Hotel in Melbourne, Australia.

Australia's immigration system used the Park Hotel in Melbourne to detain dozens of refugees. Source: AP / Hamish Blair

The last remaining eight people in Melbourne's Park Hotel are among 20 detainees granted bridging visas on Thursday, according to refugee advocates.

Advocates say three detainees in the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation (MITA) detention centre in Broadmeadows have also been released while six have been released from the Brisbane Immigration Transit Accommodation (BITA) detention centre in Pinkenba.

The last remaining refugee woman in Sydney's Villawood Immigration Detention Centre has also been released, it is reported.
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The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) said 20 detainees had been released in all.

A spokesperson for the Department of Home Affairs confirmed to SBS News that detainees have been released from Park Hotel but did not provide an exact figure.

Thanush Selvarasa, who was detained on Christmas Island, Nauru, MITA and the Mantra Hotel in Melbourne - until his eventual release in January 2021 - said it was "really wonderful news".

"We have been waiting day by day for the last nine years to join the community, you cannot imagine how happy this makes me," he said.

"This is a victory not just for us but for all those who fought for our freedom.”

He said while "anything is better than detention", more advocacy work needs to be done for those on bridging visas to be granted permanent protection visas.

While welcoming the news, Greens Senator Nick McKim said the federal government was using the release of the detainees for political means.

"That they [the detainees] are being released on the eve of an election is a deeply cynical move and it proves once again that their detention and torture was always a political decision,” Senator McKim said.
“This release leaves a small number of people who were transferred to Australia for medical reasons still in detention. There are no security concerns over any of these people and they should be freed immediately.

“We should offer permanent protection in Australia to anyone who was detained offshore.”

Amnesty International Australia's refugee advisor Graham Thom said the men at Park Hotel had been detained unnecessarily.
"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," he said.

"Sadly these men were unnecessarily detained for more than two years in hotels in Australia, following the years of trauma they suffered offshore."

According to the Refugee Council of Australia, there are 112 refugees and asylum seekers in Nauru and 104 in Papua New Guinea.

On Thursday, Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews reiterated the government's position that "those who arrive illegally will not be settled in Australia".
Protesters are seen outside of the Park hotel quarantine facility rallying for the release of detainees.
People staged protests outside Melbourne's Park Hotel demanding the release of refugees and asylum seekers held in onshore detention. Source: AAP / James Ross
Ms Andrews said it is due to the "compassionate policy" of the federal government refusing for "illegal arrivals" to settle, that allowed the closure of 19 detention centres so far.

"When we came to office the number of people in held immigration detention was close to 10,000 - today it is a fraction of that, with the majority being character cancellations awaiting removal," she said on Thursday.

"It is a compassionate policy that means we can continue to have one of the most generous resettlement programs in the world."

According to the ASRC, it is estimated that 250 people have now been released from onshore detention since December 2020, but 10 still remain.

Founder and CEO of ASRC Kon Karapanagiotidis said the "fight for justice is far from over".

"[The government have] left 10 behind who are still detained in hellholes. All are refugees. We as a community could take them all in tomorrow. It’s nothing but cruelty denying freedom to all," he wrote on Twitter.

Detainees in Park Hotel gained international coverage after men's world No.1 tennis star Novak Djokovic was remanded there during his controversial arrival in Australia - and subsequent deportation.
Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic departs from the Park Hotel government detention facility.
Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic temporarily stayed at Park Hotel after his visa debacle before the 2022 Australian Open. Source: AAP / James Ross
Djokovic was taken to the Park Hotel after the federal government cancelled his visa for failing "to provide appropriate evidence to meet the entry requirements to Australia".

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke used his special ministerial powers to cancel his visa. This decision was later upheld by the Federal Court after a challenge from Djokovic.

The Serbian player was held in the hotel days before the Australian Open because he did not receive the mandatory COVID-19 vaccines in order to enter the country.

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5 min read
Published 7 April 2022 at 3:22pm
By Rayane Tamer
Source: SBS News