More than 50 refugees are arbitrarily detained within the confines of the Mantra Bell City Hotel, Preston in the Melbourne metropolitan area. In 2019, every one of these refugee detainees was evacuated to Australia for medical treatment and detained in the Hotel after the Australian government held them hostage for more than 7 years in Papua New Guinea and Nauru. The detained refugees are now facing the ticking time bomb of the COVID19 pandemic because all of them suffer from serious medical illnesses and are immunocompromised. The UN has ruled that Australia’s indefinite detention of refugees is arbitrary and illegal in the last 51 cases before the Human Rights Committee.

Darebin Council claims to be “A Refugee Welcome Zone”, what does that even mean? Why are our lives used as political currency and councillors stay silent when we need them the most? Does “A Refugee Welcome Zone” include the torture and indefinite detention of refugee detainees in hotels in Darebin council areas?

Clearly, most of the Darebin council candidates have not taken decisive action to stop our community being punished for seeking asylum and tortured inside a so-called hotel in their council area.  All they seem to have done is give lip service by visiting detainees in the Mantra hotel cage and passing council motions about the plight of the detainees. Members in the Darebin council are from across the political spectrum, including Independents, as well as the Greens, Labor Party and Liberal Party – all three political parties support the mandatory detention of refugees coming by boat. We need more than lip service.

RISE eX-detainees question why current Darebin councillors allowed the Mantra Hotel, owned by the Accor Group, a large French corporation, to breach local council laws, which include the Hotel licensing laws and service standards.  What steps has the Darebin Council taken to cancel Mantra Hotel’s licence due to non-compliance with hotel and tourism legislation? Hotels cannot be lawfully used as detention centres. There is decisive action that can be taken. 

The Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 (Vic) and Regulations 2009 (Vic) require registration of prescribed accommodation including the Mantra Hotel in Darebin an s.67 of the Act, and, at s.17(3) of the Regulations: “If persons are accommodated in prescribed accommodation for a period of more than 31 days, the maximum number of persons permitted to occupy a bedroom in respect of the period after the thirty-first day is— (a) in the case of a bedroom with a floor area of less than 12 square metres, one person; (b) in the case of a bedroom with a floor area of 12 square metres or more, 2 persons and an additional person for every 4 square metres of floor area that exceeds 12 square metres.” The Mantra Hotel are in breach of local state laws and yet face no penalty for their participation in the mandatory detention scheme.

Meanwhile the Darebin Council places heavy penalties against local small businesses who breach licencing laws.  Further, many of our community members who are small business owners and customers of Preston Market will be affected by the massive corporatisation and gentrification of the market that is planned. 

Now, during the council election, all of the councillors are in caretaker mode while our community is being tortured and abused at Mantra Hotel. Our community deserves sanctuary and protection – not prison walls. Imprisoning us and ignoring us is xenophobic and discriminatory; such types of abuse and institutionalised control of refugees should not be tolerated. We deserve our freedom. We are part of the Darebin community too. 

Do we really need these councillors to continue once again, to abandon us? If they don’t care about our community members when needed the most, why do we need them? 

It is not up to us to promote or endorse any council candidates or political parties. At the same time, we are not going to stay silent when the council members fail to protect our community members in front of their eyes. It is an utter disgrace that we survivors of detention torture, institutional abuse and rape have to be the ones to remind people again and again that they should not to be complicit in this criminal act against our members.

eX-detainee Team – ‘Nothing About Us Without Us’

Support eX-detainees’ call for Refugee detainees in Mantra and Kangaroo point motels to be freed and granted permanent protection –