A Hotel Has Been Transformed Into An Immigration Detention Centre. An Inspector Says It’s Not Good Enough.

    Refugees detained in a Brisbane hotel are in overcrowded rooms and have limited access to exercise, says the Commonwealth Ombudsman.

    BuzzFeed News

    A federal watchdog has condemned conditions at the Brisbane hotel where dozens of refugees have been held for months by the Australian government.

    Refugees detained at the Kangaroo Point Central complex have been held four to a one-bedroom apartment, and do not have adequate access to open areas for sport and recreation, according to the Commonwealth ombudsman.

    The concerns are raised in the ombudsman Michael Manthorpe's report about the office's oversight of immigration detention facilities in the first half of 2019, published this week.

    The facilities were also inadequate for the number of detainees held at the hotel, the report said.

    The room on the hotel's first floor where all detainees had to eat lunch and dinner was too small to seat everyone at meal times, and smoke from the smoking area would enter the dining area. The room was also used as a common room and activities area.

    Kangaroo Point Central is an APOD, or alternative place of detention, the name given to areas where asylum seekers and refugees are being detained by the government despite not being a typical detention centre.

    The government has been criticised for holding sick refugees in hotel APODs in Brisbane and Melbourne for months on end, without providing them with proper medical care.

    The report noted that the government had established an increased number of APODs in the first half of 2019.

    In general, the ombudsman expressed concern about facilities in non-medical APODs, and particularly their "shortfalls in daily access to outdoor recreation areas" and "medical and mental health clinics that do not support the detainees' right to private consultations".

    In other cases, people held in APODs had only limited access to educational, cultural and religious activities.

    The ombudsman cautioned that the government had a duty of care to detainees to ensure they can access facilities that are fit-for-purpose and meet their fundamental human rights.

    Refugees held in the Brisbane hotel have told BuzzFeed News that they have very limited access to fresh air. They can only exercise if they sign up in advance for a short trip to a local detention centre, which has limited spots.

    Multiple sources told BuzzFeed News that one man has been held at the hotel for over a year.

    In its response to the report, Australia's Department of Home Affairs stated that APODs "are usually used for short periods of time", but acknowledged that longer-term APODs should have appropriate facilities, where practical.

    The department agreed with the ombudsman's observation that it was limited by local supply and demand and that "the provision of one large hotel-based APOD is operationally preferable to multiple smaller locations".

    The department said it was working with service providers to ensure that a range of services are provided to those people held in longer term APODs in Brisbane and Melbourne, including access to outside activity.

    Hannah Ryan is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.

    Contact Hannah Ryan at hannah.ryan@buzzfeed.com.

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