Novak Djokovic stay brings spotlight to concerns of asylum seekers detained in Australian hotel

He has spent the past two months in detention At the rundown Park Hotel in Melbourne, Australia, now Adnan Chobani has a famous new neighbor – tennis star Novak Djokovic.

“I couldn’t believe Djokovic was here,” Chobani, 24, said in a video call Friday from his room at the temporary immigration detention center, which holds 36 asylum seekers.

“I hope he shares what he saw,” He said, adding that closed windows, lack of fresh air and poor food had a mental impact on him and other residents.

Djokovic, a 20-time Grand Slam winner, moved to a room on the floor below Chobani last week after Australian border officials revoked his visa for failing to provide adequate evidence to meet entry requirements.

The country’s Covid-19 rules state that arriving travelers must have had two injections of an approved vaccine or must have exceptions for genuine medical reasons to avoid quarantine.

Novak Djokovic in November as he travels to Melbourne to defend his Australian Open title.Julian Finney/Getty Images

Ahead of Monday’s court hearing, Djokovic’s lawyers argued in papers submitted to the Federal Circuit and Family Court in Australia that he was granted an exemption because he contracted – and recovered from – the coronavirus last month.

While he waits to hear his case, Djokovic is booked into the Park Hotel, a gray five-storey detention center for immigrants in a Melbourne suburb – just over two miles from the city’s luxury hotels where most of the other players competing in the Australian Open are staying. .

His mother is Dijana She was less than impressed, telling reporters at her family’s restaurant in Belgrade, Serbia, last week that the restaurant was “dirty” and infested with insects. The food was also criticized.

Chobani echoed those sentiments, describing the food as “disgusting”. He said that on a number of occasions he found maggots in some food and they gave him moldy bread to eat.

Another detainee, Muhammad Joy Miah, posted pictures of insects in food on social media late last month.

mental outcome

Chobani said conditions at the hotel, which is also used to quarantine travelers who have tested positive for Covid-19, have “mentally destroyed” some residents.

“All people do is stay in their room,” he said.

Chobani said his family urged him to flee because he was persecuted as a member of Iran’s Ahwazi Arab minority. When he was only 15 years old, he made his way to Indonesia, where he boarded a boat bound for Australia.

Authorities intercepted the ship, and Chobani has been detained ever since. Australia has a mandatory detention policy for anyone arriving without a visa and to deter people arriving by boat.

Chobani said he spent most of the time at offshore processing centers on Christmas Island and Nauru in the South Pacific.

He added that he lived in a number of detention centers after moving to the mainland in 2019, before ending up at the Park Hotel in November.

“Nine years of my life were for nothing,” he said, adding that he was “sad” to admit that his teens and early twenties had been lost and that he had missed things like a prom and having a girlfriend.

He said the detention also prevented him from starting a family or getting a job. He said he was never convicted of a crime; I have “only asked for asylum”.

Chobani said he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. He showed NBC News two large packages of medication full of antidepressants and sleeping pills.

“I sleep all day,” he said, “and when I wake up, I watch a little movie and that’s it – I’ll take my medication again and sleep.”

Adnan Chobani holds packages of medicines that he said contain antidepressants and sleeping pills.Bianca Britton/NBC News

Chobani doesn’t know when he will be released, but when it comes to his possible freedom, he said he dreams of walking down the street alone unguarded.

NBC News asked the Australian Border Force, which uses the hotel to house asylum seekers, for comment. In a statement to the New York Times, it said detainees in immigration hotels have “access to designated indoor and outdoor exercise and activity areas,” adequate food, “clean and comfortable sleeping quarters” and other amenities.

The Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection also declined to comment on Chobani’s case.

While it is unclear what conditions Djokovic is being held in, his case has shed light on Australia’s immigration system.

Sophie McNeil, Australian researcher at Human Rights Watch: “Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers is inhumane, extremely cruel, and illegal under international law.” chirp Friday.

The activist group “Refugee Action Collective Victoria” said in a statment Thursday, “Djokovic may spend a few days in detention but refugees have been held for 8 years with no end in sight, for no good reason, other than a harsh border policy.”

Chobani said he hoped Djokovic would shed light on the hotel’s conditions.

“I hope Mr. Djokovic will be our voice and speak for us,” he said.

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