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Fires break out in Melbourne refugee hotel

One person was taken to hospital with smoke inhalation after two fires at a Melbourne hotel housing refugees and asylum seekers.

Police believe a hotel staff member was also assaulted during an incident at the Park Hotel which is under investigation by Victoria Police.

Thirty firefighters were called to the scene by an automatic fire alarm at the five-storey hotel on Swanston Street at about 1.30pm on Thursday.

They spent three hours at the scene, putting out fires and ventilating the building after fires on the third and fourth floor of the hotel. One of the fires was in a hotel room.

Asylum seeker and refugee men have been kept in the hotel, some for nearly two years.

The hotel has also seen a COVID-19 outbreak among the group.

Asylum Seeker Resource Centre campaigns director Jana Favero told AAP about 33 men are still being held there despite repeated pleas for them to be freed.

The men had told the ASRC there was chaos when the fire broke out and they were initially taken to a lower floor in the building, Ms Favero said.

“There was a lot of panic,” she said.

The men all have health conditions including some with asthma, Ms Favero said, and having escaped war and violence “this is another compounding thing to deal with”.

In a statement, and Australian Border Force spokeswoman confirmed a “disturbance” had occurred at the hotel.

“The health and safety of detainees, staff and contractors is the ABF’s highest priority,” they said.

“The ABF and its service providers are in regular communication with detainees and staff in relation to appropriate behaviour in immigration detention facilities.”

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