What's happening right now in the Park Hotel in Melbourne marks yet another dark chapter in this country's bipartisan cruel treatment of asylum seekers and refugees.
At least 21 of the 46 refugees held there have tested positive to COVID-19. One is in hospital. The rest believe that infection is inevitable and that their lives are in immediate danger. The government was warned this would happen. They were warned that this superinfectious virus would run rampant in the unventilated hotel rooms. It's a COVID incubator, but they didn't care. They chose not to act.
These people came here seeking our protection. They were sent offshore to camps that the Labor Party set up. Then, since they came here, the government has completely and utterly failed them. People in my electorate of Melbourne had to summon everything they had to get through all 263 days of lockdown, and many couldn't imagine even one more day, but these men have been in detention for eight years. Eight years! Some arrived as boys and they are now men. Haven't they suffered enough?
We know the government can fix this. They released many of the medevac refugees from the Park Hotel eight months ago. They can do it again. With the stroke of a pen, they could grant them permanent protection, get them the treatment they need and let them safely join the community. We cannot take back the years of suffering, but we can stop their torture today. The name of the hospitalised asylum seeker is Mohammad Sohrabi. Prior to contracting the virus, he had requested a vaccine, and he's now saying: 'I don't know what to say. I'm just trying to breathe.'
Let them stay, get them the help they need and close the camps.