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Djokovic, refugees and the Park hotel in Melbourne

Recently, the controversy surrounding Serbian tennis player #NovakDjokovic revealed some of the most dangerous—though normalised—attitudes and beliefs about #refugees. Djokovic's relatives and fans, as well as other #antivaxxers worldwide, quibbled about the "miserable" conditions he experienced. However, most people worldwide were unaware that the same #Melbourne hotel he was quarantining in is currently housing a large group of #asylumseekers.

These men have been the victims of Australia's cruel, inhumane system of mandatory #detention. Over the last nine years, they have been detained in offshore processing centres in Nauru and on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea. They were only recently brought to Australia as part of a programme for detainees with medical conditions.

This detention hotel has served as a 'prison' for refugees who live in deplorable conditions and cannot leave the hotel except for medical treatment. The hotel is known for its mouldy accommodations, maggot-infested food, and bug infestations, which pose critical health concerns. Due to being close-quartered during the #pandemic, 22 of the 47 men tested positive for #COVID19 at one point. Furthermore, while Djokovic spent only 5 days in detention, asylum seekers spent 689 days on average.

Refugees and asylum seekers in these situations are often expected to be grateful for host countries' acceptance and dehumanising policies. We must ask ourselves why we expect people fleeing #conflict, #persecution, and natural disasters to be thankful for being welcomed in such horrible conditions. Why are people still saying "if they don't like it, they should go back" to the countries where they risk violence and death? Accepting refugees is one thing, but maintaining their #dignity is crucial.

We deeply value and admire the work of the #activists who have been protesting Australia's treatment of asylum seekers, some even before Novak Djokovic came into the picture. These protesters have held signs reading #refugeeswelcome and #nineyearstoolong to bring attention to the dehumanisation, abuse, and indifference these asylum seekers have suffered from for almost a decade.

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