About 200 protesters have gathered in Darwin to demand the release of refugees detained in a compound at the city’s airport for a year.
Supporters of the 15 say they were brought from Nauru to Australia for medical care in February 2020 but they’ve instead been left in limbo.
Protest organisers are demanding the government immediately release the group into the community and provide them better health care.
“They’ve received some medical treatment but not adequate and not substantive,” activist Tanya McIntyre told AAP on Saturday evening.
“The critical conditions they came for have not been addressed.”
Iranian man Reza Golmohammadian, 59, and his wife and two children arrived on Christmas Island as asylum seekers in 2013 and have been detained ever since.
“We want our freedom. Eight years is too long,” he told AAP via telephone from inside the compound.
“We came here for medical treatment but we haven’t received much.
“We are exhausted and frustrated with our situation. We already have refugee status from Nauru and we don’t know why we have to stay here in Darwin detention.”
Medical doctor Nilanthy Vigneswaran said the poor-quality health care the refugees had received amounted to discrimination.
“Conditions that are normally easily managed for everyday Australians are causing people in detention to languish and in some cases die,” she said.
“Being in indefinite detention also exacerbates people’s mental health conditions and they should be released into the community.”
The group of five Iranian and Sri Lankan families live in transportable buildings behind wire fences in a compound that adjoins the Mercure Darwin Airport Resort.
The hotel chain provides the majority of their meals – which arrive in plastic takeaway containers – and the families share single rooms with bunk beds.
In January, the Australian government released dozens of refugees detained in a Melbourne hotel after more than a year in Australia.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said it was more economical to release the refugees into the community than pay for their prolonged stay in hotels.
Those refugees were brought to Australia for medical care under Australia’s medevac laws since repealed.
The release of the refugees in Darwin remains at the discretion of Mr Dutton and the Department of Home Affairs.