Tennis star Novak Djokovic’s failed attempt to get into Australia for the Australian Open has received significant international attention.
In Serbia, the unvaccinated player appears to have become somewhat of a martyr, with his father appearing in front of supporters in the Serbian capital of Belgrade declaring that his son is being kept “in captivity” and that the Australian government is “stomping all over Novak to stomp all over Serbia and Serbian people”.
Now in the Park Hotel in Melbourne where a number of supporters of the tennis star have also gathered, Djokovic’s predicament must raise attention for others detained in the same hotel.
That would be the 33 refugee men who have been detained for nine years now, and who currently also reside in the same hotel which has been used as a detention facility for asylum seekers by the Australian Border Force. They remain detained despite offers from New Zealand to resettle refugees.
In line with Djokovic’s arrival at the hotel, refugee Mostafa Azimitabar tweeted about his experiences in the same hotel and the refugees who remain imprisoned in “tiny rooms without fresh air.”
“No one deserves this. Let’s not forget the people that will remain long after Novak leaves,” he tweeted.
He urged the current situation to shed an international spotlight on “Australia’s barbaric immigration regime which horrifically destroys dreams every day.”
Of the 33 men, around 20 were infected with COVID-19 during a recent outbreak at the site. They have also reported having maggots in their food, while epidemiologists have condemned the building’s poor ventilation.
Djokovic arrived in Australia on Wednesday to play in the Australian Open after being granted a medical exemption for vaccination requirements on international arrivals by the Victorian Government. However, the federal government then refused his entry. Prime Minister Scott Morrison later declared that “rules are rules” when dismissing the player’s plight.
Djokovic had been given an exemption for his unvaccinated status by two medical panels including the Victorian Health Department and Tennis Australia. It’s not clear what his medical exemption involved, however they could have seen a COVID-19 infection from the past six months as a reason for exemption.
With Djokovic’s story gaining international attention, it’s difficult for anyone with even the slightest concern for human rights to ignore what else is occurring in the very same building where the number one tennis player will spend the weekend.