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Novak Djokovic was denied entry into Australia on Thursday after authorities said he did not meet Covid-19 vaccination requirements.
Soon after the decision, he was taken to the Park Hotel, a quarantine facility in Melbourne, after being held at the city's airport overnight and was told he would be removed from the country later on Thursday.
The Park Hotel is used by the Australian government to detain refugees and asylum seekers and has been a focal point of anger for protesters against the government’s hostile immigration policies.
The hotel has housed government detainees since December 2020, many of them held for years while seeking visas to remain in Australia. The hotel has held people flown to Australia from Manus Island and Nauru.
The world’s best tennis player will not be alone in the hotel – more than two dozen people are currently held there.
There has been criticism in the Australian media of conditions inside the hotel. In October, there was a Covid outbreak in which more than 20 people tested positive.
Salah Mustafa, who was held at the hotel, told The Guardian: “I sit in the room and I am afraid. We are all afraid.
“Today, I am negative, my son is negative. But tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, what then? Everywhere is infection.
“We are trapped here. We are stuck in our rooms, waiting [for] this virus to come.”
Victoria’s health minister, Martin Foley, admitted to the Guardian that the state government was “quite concerned” about the situation inside the hotel.
Last month, Australia’s SBS News published photographs which it said showed food given to the detainees that contained maggots and mould.
Ian Rintoul, a spokesperson at Refugee Action Coalition, told SBS that he was “horrified” by the photographs.
“[The maggots] were alive in the plastic dish… People refused to eat it and demanded that it be taken away,” he said.
“There was no other food bought to replace it. So they either ate the maggot-infested food, the mouldy bread or went hungry. Most went hungry.”
The Australian Border Force did not respond to questions about the food but a spokesperson said it and the Department of Home Affairs were “committed to the health and welfare of detainees within the Australian immigration detention network”.
Last month, the Daily Mail also reported that two fires broke out and a person was taken to hospital for smoke inhalation. Police also said that a member of staff had been assaulted.
Activists have held protests against the hotel and there are messages in graffiti on the outside walls and on the ground.
Nevertheless, the hotel's website bills it as a “luxurious 4.5-star hotel set in a prime location”. It has 107 rooms, all air-conditioned. It is also close to centre of Melbourne and is near the University of Melbourne and the Royal Women’s Hospital.
By Thursday afternoon, Djokovic’s supporters, draped in Serbian flags, had congregated outside the hotel that is now at the centre of a diplomatic row.