Asylum seekers brought to Australia for medical care have been forcibly removed from the Brisbane hotel used for their long-term detention, supporters have said.
Protesters have again descended on the Kangaroo Point Central Hotel and Apartments where about 19 men once held on Nauru and Manus Island have been detained for over a year.
The men’s removal comes amid a bitter dispute involving the owners of the hotel, the lessor, and the sub-lessor, Serco, said Lou Menniti, whose family trusts own the hotel.
Serco helps run immigration detention sites for the federal government.
Menniti said his family had exerted its right to reclaim possession of the hotel precinct when he arrived with five security guards who “jumped through windows and over fences” to retake the property on Friday.
Ian Rintoul, from the Refugee Action Coalition, said there were dramatic scenes as two mini-vans took medevac detainees from the hotel to the Brisbane immigration detention centre.
He said police smashed a car window and forced activists from a car that had tried to block the vans’ paths.
There have been dozens of protests at the Kangaroo Point property in the past year when activists demanded all former offshore detainees be released.
In recent months the federal government has released many asylum seekers brought to Australia for medical care under the nation’s short-lived medevac laws. A group of 50 were allowed to leave the Kangaroo Point hotel in early March. But Rintoul said the government refused to let the last 19 men go.
“We don’t want any more transfers between detention centres. Everyone should be released,” he said on Friday.
Dane De Leon has been involved in many protests at Kangaroo Point and described the scenes as the men were removed.
“There was so many cops,” she said. “There were a couple of paddy wagons and a few of the riot squad there. The Serco guys and the cops were working together just trying to aggressively push the protesters off, telling us to go away.
“Some of the men were quiet and just looking at the ground. Some who were resisting were being held by Serco guards.”
Police are yet to comment and Serco has referred questions to its media team.
The Australian Border Force said it would not comment on operational matters.
“Decisions about the most appropriate immigration detention accommodation are determined on a case-by-case basis, and involve consideration of the medical needs, and the safety and security of detainees, service providers, visitors and staff,” it said.
Menniti said his family trusts had initiated legal action against the lessor of the Kangaroo Point hotel, alleging a series of breaches. Comment has been sought from the lessor.
In December the Morrison government began the staged release of asylum seekers brought to Australia under the medevac laws.
The Refugee Council of Australia said the government had never adequately explained why the long-term detention of asylum seekers brought here for medical care was warranted.