Calls to boycott Mercure over NT refugees

A group of 15 refugees have been held for a year in a compound at Darwin Airport.
A group of 15 refugees have been held for a year in a compound at Darwin Airport.

Social advocates have called for a boycott of an international hotel chain over its role in housing detained refugees in the Northern Territory.

The NT Council of Social Service says 15 refugees have been held for a year behind wire fences in a compound at the Mercure Darwin Airport Resort.

It wants travellers to steer clear of Accor's Mercure hotel chain, which also provides the majority of the refugees' meals and other services, according to to activists.

"It is a difficult economic time, particularly for our tourism and hotel industries, so a call to boycott the Mercure does not come lightly," chief executive Deborah Di Natale said on Tuesday.

"But the 15 refugees in Darwin have been locked up for seven years in Nauru and a further year in Darwin, simply for seeking asylum.

Ms Di Natale says the group of five Iranian and Sri Lankan families have been living in transportable buildings and share single rooms with bunk beds while they await medical treatment in Darwin.

"It's inhumane and the role played by the Mercure in facilitating and possibly profiting from this must be acknowledged," she said.

Ms Di Natale said the refugees could be placed on community detention or given bridging visas.

"The Minister for Home Affairs has released refugees in both Melbourne and Brisbane. It can be done for those indefinitely detained in Darwin," she said.

"Until the Mercure takes a stand against the cruel detention happening alongside its premises, we must take a stand against the Mercure."

Meanwhile, Anglicare NT wants the federal government to explain why the refugees are still locked up when others in Melbourne and Sydney have been released.

"They have less freedom of movement and worse facilities than in Nauru," chief executive Dave Pugh said.

"Most of them have been in detention for eight years with no end in sight and for most, the treatment has not been received,"

Mr Pugh said Anglicare NT was "deeply concerned by the confused messages coming from the Mercure Airport Resort and from Accor Hotels about their involvement".

Mercure Hotels has previously denied being involved with the detention of the refugees in Darwin.

The Northern Territory Council of Social Service is the peak body for the not-for-profit sector in the NT.

It has more than 130 members made up of non-government, community and Aboriginal organisations.

Accor has been contacted for comment.

Australian Associated Press