Protestors demand help for detainees under COVID threat


By Isabella Jeffrey

For months protestors have maintained a vigil supporting asylum seekers locked inside a Brisbane hotel.

The Kangaroo Point Hotel where detainees have been held all year

The ‘Refugee Solidarity Meanjin’ group has been protesting outside the Kangaroo Point Hotel since earlier this year to stop the transfer of detainees, who were brought to Australia from offshore detention centres under the now repealed Medevac laws.

The blockade is demanding the relocation to community-based detention during COVID-19, as they say the conditions the detainees are currently under are inadequate and unsafe.

Michelle Peterie, Immigration Researcher at the University of Wollongong said detention can have a serious impact on people.

“The longer people are detained immigration detention can also have serious consequences for physical health, partly because of physical facilities, fresh food and inadequate health service, because of what we know about the really intimate relationship existing between psychological health and physical health, so when people’s mental health is damaged that also has an impact on their physical health and vice versa. Sadly, we also know that the excessive use of force is an ongoing problem within that system which can also contribute to physical health issues.”

The organisation has held meetings with Australian Border Force and local members to negotiate the relocation, but they remain in the hotel. So now the organisation is bringing the fight to the community.

One local activist and blockade supporter said they are demanding change.

“Not only are we essentially keeping these men in there to kill them, but we are completely decimating them of their quality of life.”

The protestors have placed cages outside Central Station and dyed the water of a city fountain red like blood, aiming to provoke conversation and awareness of what’s happening at the Kangaroo Point Hotel.

Earlier this year more than 1180 health-care professionals signed a joint letter to the government calling for the men to be released, saying makeshift detention centres represent “a very high-risk environment” for the coronavirus to be transmitted.

The detainees say they are in constant fear of an outbreak in the hotel, on already vulnerable people.

“These options are more humane; they are considerably cheaper and the Australian public in the everyone who was brought to Australia has already passed security and character assessment continuing to hold refugees and asylum seekers in harmful detentions is neither necessary nor appropriate. It’s hurting detainees, it’s hurting the people who love them and it’s doing irrevocable damage to Australia’s national reputation,” Michelle Peterie said.

Protestors say they are resolute.

“The protestors are here in solidarity. We’ve made a plan on how to keep the blockade alive but also make some time and space for the men inside and to rethink where we should go forward.”

They say the blockade will continue.