Melbourne immigration detention hotel 'like prison', tennis player says, as protests continue

Iranian asylum seeker Hossein Latifi feels “hopeful” that people are learning about his plight as a result of Novak Djokovic being detained at Melbourne's Park Hotel.

Detainees are seen inside the Park Hotel immigration detention hotel.

Asylum seekers are seen inside the Melbourne immigration detention hotel that has captured global attention after Novak Djokovic's visa rejection. Source: AAP

Czech tennis player Renata Voracova, housed in the same Melbourne immigration detention hotel as men's world No.1 Novak Djokovic and dozens of asylum seekers, has likened her stay to being in prison. 

The doubles specialist joined Djokovic in detention at the Park Hotel in the inner-city suburb of Carlton where more than 30 asylum seekers are also detained after her visa was also revoked.

The 38-year-old Voracova said the detention complex felt like prison.

"I'm in a room and I can't go anywhere," Voracova told Czech media.

"My window is shut tight, I can't open it five centimetres.

"And there are guards everywhere, even under the window, which is quite funny. Maybe they thought I would jump and run away.

"They bring me food and there's a guard in the corridor. You have to report, everything is rationed. I feel a bit like in prison."

Last month, SBS News reported that asylum seekers detained at the hotel claimed they were being put in danger after allegedly being given meals with maggots and mould to eat. 

On Saturday, protesters continued to rally outside the Park Hotel, including those there in support of refugees, Djokovic, and some from the anti-vaccination movement. 

Iranian asylum seeker Hossein Latifi told SBS News he feels “hopeful” that many people are learning about his situation as a result of Djokovic being detained

“This is a hard situation. Nine years detained and I’ve committed no crime," he said.

“These people outside have been very kind, they are waving at us through the windows and it gives me hope.”

Voracova hoping to leave Australia

Voracova was initially allowed into the country on a medical exemption after she contracted COVID-19 late last year.

She said she planned to get vaccinated but ran out of time due to the illness.

Unlike Djokovic who has mounted a legal challenge, Voracova is hoping to leave Australia over the weekend, and will not be playing at the Australian Open. 

Djokovic was taken on Thursday to the Park Hotel on Thursday after the federal government sensationally cancelled his visa for failing "to provide appropriate evidence to meet the entry requirements to Australia".

Despite being in the country a week and playing a doubles match in the Australian Open warm-up event, Voracova was also contacted by the ABF on Thursday.

Renata Voracova
Renata Voracova is being detained in the same immigration hotel as Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic. Source: AAP

After interrogation, she was sent to the hotel.

"It felt like in an action movie and it wasn't pleasant at all," said Voracova, who has won 11 WTA doubles titles during her career.

"I don't understand why they would come to me after a week and say, 'look, the rules that applied do not apply anymore'."

But she had no hard feelings toward the Serbian superstar.

"I would like them to let him play. We are athletes, we have come here to play tennis and not to deal with disputes behind the scenes," she said.

With reporting by Eden Gillespie and AAP. 

3 min read
Published 8 January 2022 at 7:37pm
Source: SBS