Mantra detainees speak out against detention

April 17, 2020
Detainees in the Mantra Hotel in Preston protest for their release. Photo: Refugee Action Collective Victoria/Facebook

More than 70 people attended an online meeting organised by the Refugee Action Collective (RAC) on April 12 to discuss the global struggles of refugees.

Moz, a refugee detained in the Mantra Hotel in Preston, a suburb in Melbourne, spoke about the conditions facing some 70 refugees there.

“Everyone is sick, mentally and physically”, he said. Refugees are in their rooms 23 hours a day, but there is a risk of catching the virus because the guards — some of whom are coughing and sneezing — are not practicing physical distancing. There are about 80 staff who work two shifts.

Moz thanked refugee rights activists for their support, saying “we are freedom fighters, not victims,” and that “we could not survive without you”.

Another Mantra detainee, Ishmail, added people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder are only receiving sleeping tablets.

Petros Konstantinou, a refugee rights activist from Greece, said the Greek Prime Minister is looking approvingly at the “Australian model”, including isolating refugees on remote islands. There, about 50,000 refugees are detained on five islands.

Public gatherings in Greece are limited to 10 people under that country’s emergency laws, so activists gather in groups of up to 10 and hold placards outside supermarkets.

On March 21, activists defied the law and organised a rally of 80 people in Syntagma Square, outside parliament. They demanded the refugees be freed from camps and be bought to hotels.

RAC member Chris Breen spoke about his arrest on a charge of “inciting” people to participate in an April 10 car cavalcade for refugee rights.

He also criticised Labor Premier Daniel Andrews for not supporting the detainees, and failing to use his public health powers to remedy the unhealthy situation in the Mantra Hotel.

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