An image of a tennis racket against a blue background.

Djokovic saga highlights Australia’s ‘shameful’ refugee policies

Responding to the judgement delivered in tennis star Novak Djokovic’s appeal against the Australian Government’s decision to cancel his visa, Amnesty International Australia refugee advisor Dr Graham Thom said:

“Djokovic got a brief glimpse of what refugees have been experiencing for years because of the Australian Government’s shameful refugee policies. As Mehdi Ali, a 24-year-old refugee from Iran detained in the same Park Hotel, told Amnesty Australia, ‘the air inside my room is a jail, a misery that has been chasing me for almost nine years.’”

“If something positive can come from this saga it’s that a global spotlight has again shone on this dreadful situation which is in violation of international law and which has seen the suffering and death of people whose only ‘crime’ was to seek safety on Australian shores.”

“Whether it’s within our borders in the so-called ‘alternative places of detention’ [APODs] or in Nauru, people trapped indefinitely in this brutal system are suffering. They can’t work, send their kids to school, play the sports they love, access health care or plan for their futures. And many suffer trauma and illness every day because of their experiences in detention.”

“These people have fled some of the most dangerous places on earth, and they have a right to freedom, safety and a bright future for themselves and their families. They are doctors, musicians, marketing executives, social workers, and athletes. They need our urgent help. Australians can’t stand by any longer while politicians turn a blind eye to people’s suffering.”

“There are other options. Amnesty has worked to get people to Switzerland, to Canada, and to support them to resettle in the US. New Zealand has offered to take 150 refugees a year, for the past five years. We call on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to end this unjust system, accept New Zealand’s offer and allow people to finally begin to rebuild their lives.”


The Australian Government has been sending people seeking asylum by boat to facilities in Papua New Guinea and Nauru since 2012 in a policy designed to deter and punish those seeking protection.

There are approximately 40 people still being held within the Park Hotel ‘Alternative Places of Detention’ (APODs) which are hotels or motels used by the Government to house immigration detainees instead of larger facilities.

The majority of people in the APODs are recognized refugees and were transferred from processing centres in Papua New Guinea and Nauru for urgent medical treatment.

There is no clear explanation why these men continue to be locked up in APODs, indeed many have been released also without explanation. In December 2019, the Australian Human Rights Commission said the motels were not appropriate places of detention, given their lack of dedicated facilities and restrictions on freedom of movement and access to open space.

People power works – how you can help

Amnesty advocates for those who urgently need safety and push governments to do their bit and put people first. We need to continue to be relentless in our fight for the fair and just treatment of refugees looking to Australia for help.

A more expansive humanitarian intake would make it possible for more families who have been split up by conflict and persecution to reunite.

Help us defend refugee rights:

  • Donate today to help Amnesty keep up the pressure on the government and raise public awareness by funding our campaigning, research and casework
  • Sign the petition calling on the government to raise Australia’s Refugee and Humanitarian intake

Amnesty International is a global movement of 10 million people standing up for justice, freedom and equality. Together, our voices challenge injustice and are powerful enough to change the world. Learn more about our Refugee Rights campaign.

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