News & Current Affairs
Welcome to our hotel, an oasis of incarceration and dead dreams
Whilst many of us have a general understanding of our cruel system for undocumented immigrants, few realise the abhorrent details that make it the torture tactic that it is.
Australia’s Medevac Laws
In February 2019, the Home Affairs Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) Act 2019 (Cth) amended the Migration Act 1958 (Cth) (‘the Act’) to allow independent doctors to recommend that refugees and asylum seekers be transferred from offshore detention facilities to Australia for much needed medical treatment (‘the Medevac Laws’). The amendment reduced the wait time of those requiring urgent healthcare from 2 years to 72 hours and transferred 192 refugees and asylum seekers to onshore immigration detention facilities.
The Medevac Laws had the right intentions, to ensure that people that needed medical treatment got it when they needed it and not when it was too late. However, the effects of the Medevac Laws were short-lived and on its 8-month anniversary, the refugees and asylum seekers were transferred to hotels and motels approved as ‘alternative places of detention’ (‘APODs’). This was despite APODs not falling within the parameters of ‘alternatives to detention’ as set out in the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ ‘Revised Guidelines on Detention’. Reinforcing this, the Australian Human Rights Commissioner remarked it ‘considers that motels are not appropriate places of detention, given their lack of dedicated facilities and restrictions on freedom of movement and access to open space’. This was certainly the case as Amnesty reports revealed people were being locked in their rooms for up to 23 hours a day, for months on end and without the proper medical treatment they were supposedly brought to Australia to receive.
APODs are intended to be used for ‘very short periods of time and under exceptional circumstances’. Yet, the use of APODs here is nothing short of indefinite detention, and weaponizes time and hope to inflict permanent psychological damage against any who seek refuge in Australia. The system indeed deters, but at its core and in the writer’s opinion, it is evil, and exploits the desperation of freedom by dangling it just slightly out of the reach of its victims.
Mostafa (‘Moz’) Azimitabar
Unsurprisingly, the legality of our internationally condemned immigration system is again being questioned. On 19 July 2022, Mr Azimitabar pursued legal action against the Australian Government seeking compensation for his alleged unlawful detention at the Mantra Hotel and the Park Hotel.
Mr Azimitabar is a Kurdish refugee who fled his war-torn country out of fear for his life. On his arrival in Australia, he was transferred to Manus Island where he experienced the wrath of our unempathetic system for 6 years in the form of torture and deprivation of fundamental human rights. Mr Azimitabar’s experience was such that he required being medevaced to Australia for urgent medical care where he proceeded to spend 13 months at the Mantra Hotel and another month at the Park Hotel,  the very same hotel Serbian tennis champion Novak Djokovic spent 5 nights detained at. With the hotel situated in the heart of Melbourne, freedom was flaunted to him by each unaware passer-by while he remained confined in a one-bed hotel room unable to go outside, properly exercise or open a window.
Mr Azimitabar told reporters:
“People look at the place as a hotel, but inside the hotel, there was no tranquillity and it was a torture centre, and it was worse than Manus Island.”
Mr Azimitabar argues the designation of the hotels as detention facilities was without legal effect.
Section 5 of the Act requires unlawful non-citizens who do not have a visa to be detained in a detention centre, a prison or remand centre, a police station or police watch house, or another place approved in writing by the immigration minister.
The Act does not grant the Commonwealth the power to detain refugees and asylum seekers in either the Mantra or the Park Hotel as they are not detention centres established under the Act.
Mr Azimitabar also argues that even if the Commonwealth relies on its written approval, the approval was not given lawfully since former minister David Coleman and former acting minister Alan Tudge delegated those approvals to department officials.
As we await judgment, we ought to consider the impact the case will have should it succeed.
If successful, the case will establish a national precedent, forcing the government to reconsider their expansion policies pertaining to the current detention regime in Australia. In addition to the hotels and motels, the judgment would effectively question the legality of other facilities approved in the same way as the hotels, namely, the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation (MITA), the Brisbane Immigration Transit Accommodation (BITA) and the Adelaide Immigration Transit Accommodation (AITA) where approximately 400 people remain detained.
The judgment will also offer an avenue of redress to others who were similarly detained in the APODs. Although the government has released many refugees from hotel detention, their freedoms remain restricted through bridging visas or community detention.
A successful judgment would allow the refugees to seek restitution for a portion of their grotesque experiences in our unempathetic immigration system where there is no conviction, no sentence, no end – merely the endless burning of daylight.
 Public Interest Advocacy Centre, ‘Healthcare denied: Medevac and the long wait for essential medical treatment in Australian immigration detention,’ 2021 available at https://piac.asn.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/PIAC_Medevac-Report_2021_IssueE_03122150-1-1.pdf.
 Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, ‘UNHCR Revised Guidelines on Applicable Criteria and Standards Relating to the Detention of Asylum Seekers,’ 1999, available at https://www.unhcr.org/en-au/protection/globalconsult/3bd036a74/unhcr-revised-guidelines-applicable-criteria-standards-relating-detentio n.html.
 Australian Human Rights Commission, ‘Inspections of Australia’s immigration detention facilities 2019 report’ (December 2020), 84 (‘Inspections of Australia’s immigration detention facilities 2019 report’).
 Amnesty International Australia, ‘Federal court to hear case on unlawful hotel detention of refugee Mostafa Moz Azimitabar’, (19 July 2022) available at https://www.amnesty.org.au/federal-court-to-hear-case-on-unlawful-hotel-detention-of-refugee-mostafa-moz-azimitabar/ (‘Amnesty Report’).
 Inspections of Australia’s immigration detention facilities 2019 report (n 3).
 Amnesty Report (n 4).
 SBS News, ‘This is the man taking the government to court over detaining refugees and asylum seekers in hotels’, (19 July 2022) available at https://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/this-is-the-man-taking-the-government-to-court-over-detaining-refugees-and-asylum-seekers-in-hotels/9269qj0kt
 Migration Act 1958 (Cth) s 5: definition of ‘immigration detention’.
 Amnesty International Australia, ‘Legality of all Australia’s APODs (including MTA/BITA/AITA) now at centre of Federal Court battle’ (20 July 2022) available at https://www.amnesty.org.au/legality-of-all-of-australias-apods-including-mita-bita-aita-now-at-centre-of-federal-court-battle/
 Amnesty International Australia, ‘Submission to the Australian Human Rights Commission – Inquiry into the use of Alternative Places of Detention’, (27 May 2022) available at https://www.amnesty.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/Amnesty-International-Australia-Submission_-Australian-Human-Rights-Commission-APOD-Inquiry-1.pdf.