Refugee rights supporters occupy the Mantra Hotel

Refugee rights supporters take their protest about the detention of asylum seekers to the roof of the Mantra Hotel in Preston, Melbourne. Photo: Whistleblowers, Activists and Communities Alliance/Facebook

At 7.30am on May 12, refugee and asylum seeker supporters began an occupation of the Mantra Hotel in Preston, Melbourne, where more than 65 asylum seekers are being held under guard.

The refugee supporters, who checked into the hotel the previous day, barricaded themselves into their hotel rooms as an act of solidarity with people who were transferred to Australia from Manus Island and Nauru under the Medevac legislation, but who are now being detained by Serco on the 3rd floor.

The Australian Government refers to the hotel as an APOD — Alternative Place of Detention.

At 2.30pm, Moz, one of the refugees imprisoned in the hotel, reported that a Tamil refugee who has been locked up in Mantra Hotel for 9 months tried to hang himself and was taken to hospital. He had been imprisoned on Manus Island for 6 years.

“The Australian government owes us all an explanation”, a refugee supporter said. "Why are they being denied medical care and fresh air? Why are such vulnerable people being held under unsafe conditions during the COVID-19 crisis?"

The refugee supporters want the prisoners released into the community and given immediate and appropriate medical care. They have raised the same demands as more than 1100 medical professionals who told the federal government in April that detention is a health risk.

“We call for the release of people seeking asylum and refugees in detention immediately into the community, as the correct measure to take from both a humanitarian and public health perspective,” they said.

Banners were hung from the Mantra Hotel roof. They read: “7+ years and 4 no crime Free them now”, “Seven years lock-down freedom now #GameOver”, “Human rights for us now” and “Let them out”.

After several hours the police arrested the protesters, after threatening to smash down doors.

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