Statement on the management of COVID-19 in the detention network in Melbourne

Border Operations 29/11/2021

​Statement on the management of COVID-19 in the detention network in Melbourne, being the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation (MITA), which includes the Broadmeadows Residential Precinct (BRP); and the Melbourne Alternative Place of Detention (APOD) – The Park Hotel.

  • Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Australian Border Force (ABF) has worked with federal and state government agencies to implement processes to safeguard the health and wellbeing of those in the detention network, including detainees, staff, contractors, and visitors.
  • Like with other confined facilities and quarantine hotels, ongoing consultation with state health authorities is critical to minimise infection while enabling legitimate movement, visits, and delivery of key services.
  • The first cases of detainees testing positive to COVID-19 were detected on 16 October 2021 in the Melbourne APOD, more than twenty months after the start of the pandemic.
  • The ABF's strict protocols regarding use of Personal Protective Equipment and delivering services in a COVID-safe way has minimised the risk of large scale outbreak, despite the contained environment.
  • These measures are informed by the Communicable Diseases Network Australia's National Guidelines for the Prevention, Control and Public Health Management of COVID-19 Outbreaks in Correctional and Detention Facilities in Australia, public health advice and applicable health orders.
  • The ABF works closely with service providers to ensure segregation of staff deployment between the MITA and the APOD.
  • The offer of vaccinations to detainees has been available since early August 2021 and is ongoing, with all detainees who initially consented having received at least one or both vaccinations.
  • Reports of detainees being denied access to vaccinations​ or information about vaccines are inaccurate. The ABF notes that detainees, like members of the community, are free to make personal decisions about their vaccination status and can and do change their mind, and their wishes are respected by the ABF.
  • All detainees continue to have ongoing access to the medical professionals located within detention facilities.
  • As is the case in the community, not all COVID-19 positive patients will require hospital admission. Based on the advice of medical professionals, those requiring additional monitoring or interventions are taken to hospital, and are returned once discharged by the hospital.
  • The health care and range of services provided to detainees in immigration detention is commensurate with health care available to the Australian community through the public health system.
  • No ambulance has been denied access to the Melbourne APOD.
  • Reports of restricted access to medicines or medical care are inaccurate.
  • Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the ABF and its contracted service providers have engaged actively with Victorian state agency partners. This engagement has included preventative activities to mitigate COVID-19 risk, and an outbreak management response to the positive COVID-19 cases at the Melbourne APOD. These activities have focussed on implementing health advice and providing assurance to Victorian authorities that outbreak management strategies in the immigration detention network are consistent with other quarantine or confined facilities in the state.

The priority for the ABF is the health and safety of detainees and staff.