Kurdish refugee and musician Moz – full name Mostafa Azimitabar – has spoken out about his experiences being detained in a Melbourne hotel during the pandemic on a recent podcast.
Moz originally sought asylum in Australia in 2013. He was transferred to Papua New Guinea and locked up in Manus Detention Centre, where he was kept for six years.
Eventually, the musician was brought back to Australia for medical help under the Medevac Bill. He is one of approximately 65 refugees and asylum seekers who are being contained on the third floor of the Mantra Hotel in Preston, Melbourne.
They spend 23 hours a day in their rooms, after allegedly never receiving the medical help they were brought here to receive. On the new episode of podcast Read The Room, Moz said, “instead of treatment, we are receiving punishment”.
Read The Room is a program on RRR, hosted by First Nations journalist Madeline Hayman-Reber and 7am podcast editor (and NME Australia columnist) Osman Faruqi. In today’s episode (August 3), the duo ask Moz how the current global pandemic has affected the health and wellbeing of himself and the other 60+ refugees and asylum seekers he shares accommodation with.
“We are treated worse than criminals in prison,” he said. “Criminals have access to work, exercise and sunshine. We are denied these basic rights. Even criminals in jail are supported to study and get a quality education; we are banned. They are ruining our future with this torture.
“If there were 65 dogs in this place instead of us, they would be allowed to have a walk. We are not allowed to have a walk out of this place. We are treated worse than animals.”
Hear the full interview with Moz on Read The Room here. It starts at the 37:22 mark.
The asylum-seeking musician says one significant thing affecting detainees is a lack of sunlight. Upon asking staff within the hotel why they are “deprived of sunlight”, Moz said staff deflected to the Australian Border Force, which has not responded.
“Our mental health is deteriorating day by day,” Moz said. “One of the reasons that we were transferred to Australia is because we were tortured mentally on Manus for years and this situation is [making] our mental health worse.
“I personally suffer from PTSD and it’s a serious sickness. When I talk with [staff] they haven’t helped me. One of them told me that as long as I am here, this situation cannot be improved. My health will not improve as long as I am here.”
Moz explained one situation where a “health care clinic” across the road offered to provide them with medical supplies and food.
“They wanted to help us many times, but ABF stopped them. We are not allowed to receive medication or food from our friends or family outside this place. This is exactly true: they have buried us alive in this place.”
In the hotel, which Moz called a “torture centre”, the refugees’ shared accommodations have sparked “anxiety” at the possibility of a COVID-19 outbreak.
“Everyone is panicking here because of this virus. We don’t want to catch this virus and we feel like the virus is outside the room.”
Moz specifically pinpointed the constant visits from hotel staff and ABF members as a concern for viral transmission, along with various members of the public who check in and out of the hotel regularly.
Moz concluded his 10-minute interview on Read The Room with a message of love. “My message to wonderful Australian[s] is love, because we are born to love and respect each other,” he said.
Read The Room ended the episode with Moz’s song ‘Love’, about his faith and admiration towards the people advocating for refugee and asylum seekers. The track was produced by Midnight Oil’s Jim Moginie, and was played on a guitar given to Moz by Jimmy Barnes. Listen to it above, and hear the episode of Read The Room here.