Novak Djokovic visa debacle highlights plight of detained asylum seekers

Djokovic’s situation, which his family members compared to a stay in prison, garnered international media attention.

Mehdi Ali, detained at the Park Hotel, took to Twitter on Thursday to shed light on the media attention.

“It’s so sad that so many journalists contacted me yesterday to ask me questions about Djokovic. I’ve been in a cage for 9 years, I’m 24 now, and all you want to talk to me about is… pretend you care and wonder how I’m doing and then right away asking questions about Djokovic, ”he posted.

Mr Ali told SBS News he had not seen Djokovic and was disappointed that it took this series of events to bring attention to Australia’s immigration policies.

“I asked the guards, I did not see him personally… I hope he will not be here, as I hope my worst enemy will not be here, because the circumstances are cruel and inhuman and I wouldn’t want that for anyone – especially not Djokovic, ”he said.

Photos posted to social media on Thursday showed crowds of people protesting outside the Park Hotel to draw attention to the men inside, some of whom have been in Australia’s detention system for nearly a decade.

Asked the ABC Friday morning about the message the situation is sending to the world about how Australia is treating asylum seekers, Home Secretary Karen Andrews said all those in immigration detention were treated “fairly”.

“People in immigration detention, whether in a hotel in Melbourne or elsewhere in Australia, these people are there because they don’t have a valid visa or they are illegally here in Australia for maybe a a number of reasons. ,” she said.

“For those who are protesting, all I can say is that Australians have the right to express their views and to protest, they just have to do it legally.”

Supporters of asylum seekers protest outside the Park Hotel in Melbourne on Thursday, January 6.

Source: PAA / James Ross

Alison Battisson, lawyer for Human Rights For All, said Djokivic’s situation is “very unfortunate” “with which many people arriving in Australia face.”

“Novak Djokovic has the world’s resources behind him, so you can imagine if someone like him can get caught up in this kind of brutal regime, that the people who come in asking for asylum at the airport or by boat are really faced with this impenetrable system. constantly evolving rules and regulations, ”said Ms. Battisson.

Refugee lawyer Jane Salmon said in a statement: “These [asylum seekers] have been detained by Australia as maritime arrivals for asylum seekers. They have been detained for nine years. Maybe the empathy of a man like Novak’s profile will help them achieve freedom. “

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Djokovic is expected to remain in visa limbo until at least Monday as he fights to avoid deportation ahead of the Australian Open.

The nine-time champion is challenging Australia’s decision to cancel his visa, seeking judicial review. He is also seeking to prevent the authorities from deporting him in the meantime.

The Serbian star claimed on Tuesday that he was granted a vaccination exemption allowing him to travel to Australia, but it appears he only had the exemption provided by Tennis Australia to participate in the competition.

Additional reports by Essam Al-Ghalib, Akash Arora, AAP.

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