[Abbi gave the following speech before the solidarity protest in front of the Park Hotel in Carlton on January 9th]
Many thanks to previous speakers and to the Refugee Action Collective Victoria for organizing this rally, which gave us the opportunity there to talk to the outside world.
The temporary detention of Novak Djokovic puts the spotlight on refugees who have been detained in hotel jail for years
My name is Abbi and I was almost 21 when I set foot on Australian soil for the first time in 2013.
I have now spent around eight years in various prisons – offshore and onshore. I lost the best years of my life.
I went through so much torture and fear. I was 20 when I came and now I’m 29.
I was granted refugee status, but that again doesn’t seem good enough to get me released.
When I left the offshore detention center in 2019 and was brought here for medical treatment, I got another glimmer of hope – that we would finally get freedom and proper care.
It’s been almost two and a half years [at the Park Hotel] and [refugees] are still in different centers across the world Australia held and there is still no window of hope to find our freedom.
But hope is the only thing that has brought us all the way here and [helped] us through this difficult time. We’re really tired.
We’re really stressed out from the long time in detention and recent events like the COVID-19 outbreak. I was one of the people who contracted COVID-19, which led to more stress and anxiety.
I struggle with stress; I’m really tired and stressed talking here, but somehow I made it.
The situation since the COVID-19 outbreak and the fire in this hotel is killing us. We don’t have fresh air and spend almost 24 hours in isolated rooms with the windows closed, which give us nightmares and drive us mentally crazy.
What did we do wrong other than seek asylum to find a safe place to live and leaving our families and loved ones behind?
This is the next level of torture compared to what we’ve been through in the past eight years.
We haven’t seen this kind of media attention since becoming a tennis star [Novak Djokovic] came to this hotel.
I’m so disappointed because it feels like our life has no value. He’s a superstar without a doubt, but at the end of the day we’re all human.
I hope that media and human attention will put pressure on politicians to end this cruel and inhuman situation and our lives [ back].
We have families, like others, and loved ones whom we haven’t been able to hug in nearly a decade. It breaks out from within.
Please don’t give up on us and let this struggle go on until we are free. We are grateful to have such lovely people out there who show up to support us and fight for our freedom.
Green Left is 30 years old, that’s incredible! Three decades of providing essential news and analysis. It takes the left in Australia and around the world to continue its struggle against this destructive social order. Thank you for all you do and please keep it up.
Our goal is not just to expose the lies, hypocrisy and biases of the billionaire class and its media: we try to support the organizing efforts of all who are actively oppose the increasingly authoritarian rule of rich corporations at home and abroad.
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