[Abbi gave the following speech to the solidarity protest outside the Park Hotel in Carlton on January 9.]
Thanks to the previous speakers and to Refugee Action Collective Victoria for organising this rally which gives us a chance to speak to the outside world.
This always was and always will be Aboriginal land.
My Name is Abbi and I was almost 21 when I first set foot on Australian soil, back in 2013.
I have now spent around eight years in different detention centres — offshore and onshore. I have lost the best years of my life.
I went through so much torture and anxiety. I was 20 when I came and now I am 29.
I was granted refugee status but it seems that is not good enough either to see me released.
When I left the offshore detention centre in 2019 and was brought here for medical treatment, I got another window of hope — that finally we will get our freedom and proper care.
It’s been almost two and a half years here [at the Park Hotel] and [refugees] are still detained in different centres across Australia and still [there is] no window of hope to get our freedom.
But hope is the only thing which brought us all the way here and [helped us] survive through that tough time. We are really tired.
We have the right to live our life being free men, as others do.
We are really stressed from the long time in detention, plus recent events like the COVID-19 outbreak. I was one of the people who contracted COVID-19, which added more stress and anxiety.
I have been struggling with stress; I am really feeling tired and stressed talking here, but somehow I have managed to.
The situation since the COVID-19 outbreak and the fire in this hotel is killing us. We have no fresh air and spend almost 24 hours in isolated rooms with closed windows giving us nightmares and making us mentally crazy.
What have we done wrong aside from seeking asylum to find a safe place to live and leaving our families and loved ones behind?
This is next level of torture as compared to what we been through for the last eight years.
We haven’t seen this kind of media attention since the tennis star [Novak Djokovic] got to this hotel.
I’m so disappointed as it feels like our lives don’t have any value. No doubt he is a super star but, at the end of the day, we are all humans.
I hope the media and people’s attention puts pressure on politicians to end this cruel and inhumane situation and gives us [back] our life.
We do have families, like others do, and loved ones that we have not been able to hug in almost a decade. It is breaking us from inside.
Please don’t give up on us and let this fight continue till we get freedom. We are grateful to have such a lovely human beings out there who show up to support us and fight for our freedom.
Thanks very much.
[Abbi is a refugee in the Park Hotel.]