Refugees were removed under excessive police presence from the Mantra hotel in Preston in Melbourne’s north to a new location in Melbourne’s CBD on December 17.
More than 60 refugees have spent the past year imprisoned in the Mantra Hotel.
The refugees were given no indication of where they would be taken before being transported on buses to The Park Hotel (formerly Rydges Melbourne) in Swanston Street.
Update: The Rydges Hotel was the site where hotel quarantine breaches contributed to a second wave of COVID-19 cases in Melbourne, which resulted in more than 760 deaths and a 12-week lockdown of the entire city.
More than 100 protesters gathered at the Mantra, demanding the refugees be freed, not relocated. They chanted: “Free them! Don’t move them!” and "We mobilise and fight for their freedom!”
The Mantra refugees were detained on Manus Island for seven years, before being brought to Melbourne under the Medivac legislation to receive medical care. Some have received little or no medical treatment.
Activists on the ground demand the refugees be given permanent residency and are calling for an end to mandatory detention.
One of the refugees, Moz Azimi, broke the news of the forced relocation this morning via Twitter: “We are being transferred to another detention.”
Refugee activist Jacob Andrewartha told Green Left: “There was an excessive police presence, including mounted police on site. But there was also a large and peaceful group of protesters showing their solidarity with the refugees.”
Andrewartha urged supporters to go to The Park Hotel “as soon as they can”, or to join the snap protest at 701 Swanston Street today (December 17) at 5pm “to show your solidarity”.