• 04 AUG 20
    • 0
    COVID19 outbreak imminent due to Australian Border Force neglect of public health measures in Melbourne detention centres

    COVID19 outbreak imminent due to Australian Border Force neglect of public health measures in Melbourne detention centres

    A COVID-19 outbreak in Melbourne detention facilities is imminent, with hundreds of lives of already sick people at risk from daily exposure to transmission.

    Up to 70 rotating staff work daily across different detention facility locations, in similar staffing and close contact conditions that caused lethal outbreaks in Aged Care centres.

    People detained at facilities are forced to gather in close contact with each other and rotating staff indoors, in un-ventilated communal activity rooms and shared accommodation units. Masks are only available on request from activity room reception.

    Sick people are being moved back and forth between hospitals or are moved between detention centres, exposing everyone to COVID19  transmission without adequate hand hygiene and social distancing public health measures.

    Alcohol-free hand sanitiser containing active ingredient Benzalkonium chloride is placed at just three stations to cover approximately 340 people detained at the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation (MITA), despite Centre for Disease Control recommendation of hand sanitiser containing at least 60% alcohol.

    Former inspector of immigration detention centres, Steven Caruana said: “Communicable Diseases Network Australia (CDNA) guidelines call for adequate stocks of alcohol-based hand hygiene products and ‘appropriate access for visitors and inmates’  in correctional facilities, yet immigration detention centres are clearly not adhering to these guidelines.”

    “Ineffective prevention controls combined with social distancing difficulties, complex detainee health needs and the ever-increasing detainee population means people detained are at a high risk of significant transmission.”

    Amira, a woman detained at MITA said: “We have asked ABF and detention managers for personal hand sanitiser that can kill the COVID-19 virus in each of our detention units and we have asked that sick people from hospital are not brought into the centre, but they have said no to us.”

    “I have serious medical conditions and feel a lot of pain,  but I have been moved to different units in the centre and share my unit with two other people, with one toilet and bathroom.”

    “We are all really scared and stressed that we will get COVID-19 because of the high number of cases in Victoria. If we can live in the community, we can protect ourselves in hard lockdown and not be forced to be so close to so many people.”

    Senior Solicitor at National Justice Project and Amira’s legal representative, Ashleigh Buckett said: “People in immigration detention cannot effectively mitigate the risk of catching Covid-19 when they have no control over the conditions and contact they are exposed to.”

    “Many people in detention are especially vulnerable due to pre-existing health conditions, and the current high level of risk negatively impacts on their mental health.”

    “People should be released into community detention so that they can take measures to protect themselves against the risk of Covid-19.

    Nasir, a man detained at MITA said: ‘There are only three sanitiser stations accessible in my compound that I am aware of; one in the common mess area, one in the office, and one in the gym.”

    Principal Lawyer and manager of human rights law program at Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, Carolyn Graydon said: “The Federal Government has not only ignored repeated calls, including from peak medical bodies and the Commonwealth Ombudsman, to release detainees from detention but rather  the numbers of people detained during this COVID 19 period has actually increased.”

    “Home Affairs  figures released for April and May 2020 showed an increase of 85 detainees throughout the national detention network.”

    “This is an alarming situation in an already overcrowded system where detainees are unable to maintain social distancing or hand hygiene due to lack of alcohol-based sanitiser and are mixing with rotating shifts of guards and other staff who are not consistently using PPE .’

    “The Federal Government must release people so they can go into hard lockdown like the rest of Victoria and protect themselves and the whole community from an imminent COVID19 outbreak in detention facilities.”


    NB: Names are not real names of people detained.


    Media contact: Marcella Brassett 0411 026 142

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