About 60 detainees have been transferred under police guard from a hotel in Melbourne’s north to a former quarantine hotel in the city’s inner suburbs.
The transfer took place on Thursday amid protests in which half a dozen people were arrested.
One of the detainees, Kurdish refugee Moz Azimi, says the new accommodation at the Park hotel in Carlton is “horrible”.
Mr Azimi says he has to share a small room which has one window that does not open.
“I feel they are going to kill me here, honestly.
“This situation is deteriorating my mental health and I cannot breathe,” he said.
The Park hotel was previously known as the Rydges on Swanston and was one of the quarantine hotels where a coronavirus cluster emerged earlier this year.
Mr Azimi arrived in Australia in July 2013, and was granted refugee status in 2017.
He has been in detention for more than seven years.
There have been daily protests over the past fortnight at the Mantra hotel in Preston where the detainees were previously housed.
Darebin councillor Susan Rennie among half a dozen people arrested on Thursday morning.
Another protest is underway at the Park hotel on Thursday evening.
About 60 men were held in indefinite detention at the Preston hotel for up to 18 months.
The detainees had previously been transferred from Manus Island so they could receive medical treatment in mainland Australia.
In a statement, the Australian Border Force confirmed the people detained in Preston have all been moved out of the hotel.
“Transitory people are encouraged to finalise their medical treatment in Australia so they can continue on their resettlement pathway,” the statement says.
Amnesty International’s Graham Thom says the men were transferred to the Australian mainland to receive specialist care.
“There is no reason for their pain and trauma to be compounded by keeping them confined in tiny rooms without access to the most basic of needs like fresh air,” Dr Thom said.
“We are extremely disappointed at the lost opportunity in removing these vulnerable people to what is another detention facility when there are any number of people willing to host them in the community.”
A lawyer representing some of the refugees, Alison Battisson, said a recent Federal Court ruling means the detainees should be released unless there are plans to provide them with medical assistance.
Ms Battisson said this ruling may create legal issues for the Park hotel’s new owners.
“I don’t know if these companies got legal advice … I’d be very concerned if I was them,” she said.
Refugee advocate Chris Breen says transferring the men from detention in one hotel to another is cruel, especially when some hoped they might be released instead.
“The government can’t hold these people forever,” he said.