A COVID Outbreak Has Spread In Villawood Immigration Detention Centre

"Like other detention centres, Villawood has been a disaster waiting to happen."

Villawood COVID

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A COVID outbreak has spread in one of Australia’s largest detention centres, with fears of case numbers increasing among refugees in the days to come. Six people have tested positive across two compounds at Villawood immigration detention centre in South-West Sydney on Tuesday.

Currently, a total of 450 people are being held at the Villawood. Following the results, everyone at the centre was tested for COVID, however reported staff shortages are raising doubt that the outbreak can be safely managed. Advocacy group Refugee Action Coalition claim parent company Serco’s guards are not currently subject to any quarantine requirements.

“Like other detention centres, Villawood has been a disaster waiting to happen,” said RAC spokesperson Ian Rintoul. “Despite previous COVID scares at Villawood, the government has done nothing to safeguard the heath and welfare of detainees. Vulnerable detainees should have been released long ago.”

It follows Melbourne’s Park Hotel outbreak last year, where Medevac detainees were described as being held in a “COVID incubator” without fresh air circulating in the building. Nearly half of the refugees inside tested positive in October, with at least 14 people being immunocompromised and at heightened risk of contracting the virus.

“Anyone at high risk inside Villawood must be immediately removed from the centre,” said Rintoul. “Many detainees have families that they could safely stay with.”

The Australian Border Force told Junkee that 59 percent of detainees are fully vaccinated, 3 percent have received their first dose, and provided no details on booster shots. They said standard departmental protocols are currently underway including contract tracing, quarantining, testing, cleaning, as well as implementing preventative measures in line with public health advice.

“The priority for the ABF is the health and safety of detainees and staff in immigration detention facilities,” said an ABF spokesperson. “The health care and range of services provided to detainees in immigration detention is broadly commensurate with health care available to the Australian community through the public health system.”

Photo Credit: Asylum Seeker Resource Centre