The Plight of Refugees: “I Don’t Want to Survive Anymore. I Just Want to Live” - Salt 106.5

The Plight of Refugees: “I Don’t Want to Survive Anymore. I Just Want to Live”

Novak Djokovic’s temporary detention has shed light on the struggle of more than 1400 people in Australia.

By Michael CrooksThursday 13 Jan 2022NewsReading Time: 3 minutes

Novak Djokovic has been released, but he leaves behind many who still languish in Melbourne’s Park Hotel.

The star tennis player’s visa controversy this month has thrown light on the plight of refugees in Australia.

This includes the asylum seekers who are detained in makeshift detention centres, such as the Park Hotel in Melbourne’s Carlton, where Djokovic was temporarily accommodated.

“The law tells us that children must only be detained for the shortest period of time, yet I grew up in this cage,” Mehdi, an Iranian refugee who arrived in Australia as a teen in 2013 and is currently detained at the Park, tweeted on January 8.

“Justice is all I ask for. I don’t want to survive anymore. I just want to live.”

“Justice is all I ask for. I don’t want to survive anymore. I just want to live.”

Refugee advocates are thankful the topic has been thrust onto the national agenda.

“This sort of spotlight on this issue is quite rare in Australia,” Sahar Okhovat, a senior policy advisor at the Sydney-based Refugee Council, told Hope 103.2.

“Any attention is good.”

“Complete trauma”

According to the Refugee Council, there are around 1450 people in living in Australian detention facilities and in “alternate places of detention” such as hotels.

Around 1450 people live in Australian detention facilities and in “alternate places of detention” such as hotels.

Though the Australian Government announced its intention to end offshore processing last year, as of October there were still 122 asylum seekers in Papua New Guinea, and 106 asylum seekers on Nauru.

Many refugees come seeking better lives or are fleeing persecution in countries such as Iran and Afghanistan.

But many languish in detention for years.

“It’s been a complete trauma,” Mehdi told The Guardian.

“We came as children, we were boys, and we never had a childhood, we were just put in a cage. We did not receive a proper education, we were never allowed to have fun, we just had to try to survive.”

Shocking conditions

The Australian Border Force says it treats all detainees “with respect, dignity and fairness”, a statement on its website reads: “While in an immigration detention facility, we provide appropriate food, medical, recreational and other support services, including mental health services”.

But for years residents have reportedly complained of appalling conditions, including maggots in the food, mistreatment and poor hygiene at the Park Hotel.

“The issue with onshore detention is the lack of transparency about the situation,” Ms Okhovat said.

Asylum seeker Jamal Mohamed said the accommodation is like “a torture cell,” he told The Guardian. “I would definitely call it torture.”

Refugee advocate Craig Foster hopes that through the Djokovic controversy, more people will push for change.

Refugee advocate Craig Foster hopes that through the Djokovic controversy, more people will push for change.

“I hope that Djokovic is like the canary in the coalmine,” the former Socceroo and SBS commentator told ABC TV’s 7:30.

“It’s so absurd, just the way we’ve treated him, that it will make more Australians turn around and say, ‘What is it we think we’re actually doing here?’ Because this has gone way too far.”