Arriving in Australia and being processed
I left Greece on 27 August and arrived in Melbourne on Sunday, 29 August. where I was met and overwhelmed by a barrage of Border Force personnel, some of whom could hardly speak English. The process was in my opinion, gruelling, insensitive, poor attitude and dehumanising.
I was spoken to by officials from the Border Force, Immigration, Customs, a doctor, nurse, psychologist, hotel staff. A Rapid Covid-19 test was conducted.
They asked about my health status, where I had been overseas, my nutritional needs and whether I had been vaccinated.
All of this was conducted in a very strict and controlled environment. It was intended to be intimidating, I shook my head in amusement.
Mandatory (detention) quarantine
After all the checks were completed, we were driven to the IBIS Novotel Hotel in Little Lonsdale Street where we were met by armed police officers, health and security staff. Again we were subjected to more checks and questioning.
By this time, I could hardly suppress my laughter as we went through the hoops and jumps demanded by our gaolers. I was repeating myself over and over to them. I signed their documents and was finally escorted to my place of detention (not quarantine) on the 17th floor of the hotel.
I rested, showered and called my wife, Yovanna.
During my time in detention, I found sleep very difficult and tried to adjust to my new environment. To keep my mind active, I took stock of my environment.
The room was 3m by 7m. It had a shower, toilet, water basin, double bed, telephone, couch, kettle, a very small bar fridge, a bench, table and an air purifier to compensate for the dry air.
There was no window to open to allow in fresh air and there wall hardly room to exercise. The surrounding high-rise building cut out the sun.
To make life easier, I ensured that my medication and emergency protocols were in place in the event of an emergency. This proved a useful precaution.
Over the next 14 days, I wore only jocks (underpants) as the room temperature varied between 22°C and 23°C.
Doctors, nurses, psychologists, detention and hotel staff kept in touch by telephone to check on my well being.
On reflection, I was not a happy chappie at all. After all, I had abided by all the requirements implemented by the relevant Australian authorities: I had been vaccinated with Pfizer twice, been tested numerous times and had a PCR test three days before I left Greece. All of it was for nothing as I had expected to go into home quarantine when I returned to Melbourne.
Although the food provided was healthy and natural, it was not much to my liking. I exercised my body in the one metre by one metre shower by stretching my limbs and arching my back.
I cannot fault the staff and all those associated with my incarceration as they were just doing their job. Everyone, to a point, was pleasant, but would not budge from the parameters they had been given.
Our gaolers were subject to the same conditions, ate the same food, experienced the same boredom and must have felt tired by it all. Imagine being a security guard sitting in the foyer and recording every incident: like opening the door to collect our food, the change of sheets, recording special requests and even noting the placing our rubbish outside the door.
The only difference is that they could go home each night after their shift ended.
My skin began to dry and crack. So I had to apply an antiseptic cream on the affected areas. My breathing at times became shallow, mouth was dry, with blood forming in my nose and my eyes were stinging from lack of moisture. I stopped drinking coffee and instead drank bottled water as my left kidney was causing me pain.
These symptoms were a sign that my body was reacting poorly to my new environment. After all, I am a 71-year-old military veteran with a compromised immune system, which did not impress my gaolers.
I was made to feel like a criminal and I greatly resented that. I felt contempt for my gaolers and their political masters.
I complained about the attitudes of some security staff, the food, my state of mind, the environment and sent a request to undergo Home Quarantine instead. All to no avail.
At one stage, I felt unwell and contacted the doctor. After nursing staff in full protective clothing checked me out, I was rushed to hospital. My blood pressure was 195/101. They stabilised me in the hospital and kept me in a tiny room that was locked from the outside and guarded by two burly, armed police officers.
Passing the time ‘digging a tunnel’
By this time I came to the conclusion that if I was not active in body and mind, I would lose all sense of reality and succumb to despair.
I decided to keep my mind active and amuse myself by posting my incarceration experience on social media .
Out of boredom I also hatched an escape plan in which I proposed to dig a tunnel between the ablutions and the shower. Some of the debris I would insert in the air-conditioning ducts and some in the rubbish bin left outside my room
The tunnel was to reach the lift shafts and then I would hitch a ride on roof of the lift down to the basement where I would make my way out through side doors leading to the alley way.
A good plan which kept my gaolers and mates on social media amused.
End of incarceration
The day before I left my prison, the authorising officer informed me of the process and provided me with a detention-release document. I was given this along with my passport before I left the building. The process of leaving was simple, a complete opposite to what I experienced on my first day of mandatory detention.
On the morning of the 13 September, I returned home to be greeted by my lovely wife, Yovanna. As for Jasper our pet, I felt like Odysseus who returned from Troy to be met by his faithful dog who recognised him. I was very happy to be finally home again.
♦ Peter Adamis is a freelance journalist and a retired Australian veteran. He holds a Bachelor of Adult Learning and Development and a post-graduate degree in Environmental Occupational Health and Safety.
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