Protesters posing as Australian politicians are using a truck to block peak hour traffic as they rally outside a Melbourne hotel where about 60 refugees and asylum seekers are detained inside.
The protesters posing as Australian prime minister Scott Morrison and Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton are locked in cages on the roof of the truck blocking a lane of outbound traffic on Swanston Street, outside the Park Hotel in Carlton.
The men who were detained inside the Mantra Hotel in Preston for more than a year were relocated last week because the government’s contract with the hotel was expiring.
There were about 20 police officers at the scene, with trams allowed to pass through the protest.
Whistleblowers Activists and Citizens Alliance protester Sam Castro said there were at least 200 protesters and they planned to go on for “quite a while”.
“It is the politicians who are breaking international law and should be held accountable for the human rights abuses of refugees in these prison hotels and other onshore and offshore detention gulags,” she said.
“There are some of the detained men we can see in one window all doing little crossed arms and love hearts to everyone – it’s just so cruel what they’re going through.”
One of the detained refugees Mostafa Azimitabar described the new accommodation at the Park Hotel in Carlton as “horrible”.
“At Mantra [the previous hotel], I had a window and I could see people. I think this is one of their plans, for us not to be seen by people outside smiling at us, waving at us. Here, there is no window,” he said.
“They want people in Australia not to see our faces.”
Those locked up at the Park Hotel were sent to Australia after the medevac legislation came into effect in March last year.
It allowed refugees and asylum seekers in offshore detention to be transferred to Australia for medical help.
But they are in limbo now after the law was repealed.
The Morrison Government wants them to leave again — to go back to PNG or to seek resettlement in another country, including the United States.
Acting immigration Minister Alan Tudge said earlier this year that refugees should either return to Manus, Nauru or their home country “unless they are accepted for resettlement in the US”.
“We’ll keep them in the hotels in detention until they exercise one of those options. And that’s what we want them to do,” he told the ABC.
“We’ve always been very clear that people don’t get the right to come permanently into Australia … They’ve had their medical treatment and now it is, under the legislation, right for them to return home.”