The source of pollution, fire and worm-infested food: Melbourne detention centre, where Novak Djokovic used to house luxury hotels according to Australian media, has been the subject of several controversies in recent weeks.
The black brick and concrete construction radically contrasts with the housing used by the Serb, who ranks 46th in the list of the world’s highest-paid athletes according to the latest Forbes reference magazine rating.
As the Australian Open begins in ten days, Djocker, still stuck in the Park Hotel detention center, fights a legal battle to stay on Australian soil and defend his title.
In contrast to all of that since last year, the 34-year-old, who has won nearly $155 million in the tournament since the start of his career, has reportedly made a list of requirements including providing players, then in quarantine, from private housing. With tennis courts and better food.
The Park Hotel, where about 30 people are kept in relatively cramped rooms, became notorious last December when a fire broke out in the building, forcing it to evacuate and causing anyone to be hospitalized.
A week later, the asylum seekers posted pictures on social media, claiming that the food they were given was full of worms and accompanied by moldy bread.
“The media will talk about us more, probably the whole world, and this is really sad because it is only because Djokovic has been here for a few days,” Mehdi Ali, who is being held at the Park Hotel, told AFP.
Nearly 180 people were arrested there last year.
Most of those housed there have reportedly been transferred to Australia for medical treatment after being held on the small Pacific island of Nauru and on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.
In 2020, the building was the subject of another controversy: The Rydges Hotel (its name at the time) became the epicenter of Covid-19 contamination in the city, while people greeted before a period of quarantine.
A few of Djokovic’s supporters gathered outside the detention center to protest against the Serb’s arrest.
“Do you know how I feel?” Grief, breath Jordana, is a proponent of Knoll. And I feel like I lost a part of my heart because of it. Djokovic (as my son). “
Meanwhile, protesters against Australia’s immigration policy, and the ban on entering the territory by boat, have gathered under police watch.
“Detention Centers Canceled,” a sign hung in front of the building.
Other people expressed outrage at the measures taken to fight COVID-19: “I am here to fight for freedoms, whether it is for refugees, for Novak or even people in general, who are tired of restrictions,” said one of them, Ryan Josic. .
“It is our body, our choice.”
Serbian president denounces “political pursuit” of Djokovic
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic denounced Thursday the “political pursuit” of Novak Djokovic, whose visa has been revoked by the Australian authorities.
Aleksandar Vucic told the press that “what is not considered ‘fair play’ is the political stalking (against Djokovic, editor’s note) in which everyone, from the prime minister of Australia, is involved, claiming that the rules are valid for all”.
The Serbian president noted that many players were allowed into Australia under the same conditions, but not number 1 in the world.
He stressed that the Serbian authorities were doing “everything they could” to help Djokovic, adding that Belgrade had called the Australian ambassador to Serbia twice and that Prime Minister Ana Brnabic would meet with a senior official at the Australian Department of Immigration and Borders.
Belgrade plans to ask the Australian authorities to allow Djokovic to stay in the house he rented for the Australian Open and not in the hotel he is currently in, which Mr Vucic described as “notorious in the true sense of the term”.
“I’m afraid this kind of political hunger will continue in Novak, because when you can’t beat someone, you resort to these things,” he added.
Australia on Thursday canceled the entry visa of Djokovic, who arrived at Melbourne Airport without the necessary documents to enter the country, Australian Customs said.
The world number 1 tennis player, who has made no secret of his doubts about vaccination, was given a medical exemption to be able to travel to Melbourne to play there in his first Grand Slam of the year (17-30 January), which he has already won nine times.
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