Statement from ABF Commissioner Michael Outram APM 16 July

The Australian Border Force (ABF) has put in place comprehensive measures to protect those accommodated at immigration detention facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. No detainee in any of our facilities has tested positive.

The safety and welfare of detainees, staff and the Australian community is my top priority.

Claims that immigration detention facilities, including Alternative Places of Detention (APODs), lack appropriate health and safety measures are false. I also reject claims detainees are being put at risk or that workplace health and safety laws are being breached.

The ABF has implemented a range of protective and preventative measures in accordance with the Communicable Diseases Network Australia (CDNA) National Guidelines for the Prevention, Control and Public Health Management of COVID-19 Outbreaks in Correctional and Detention Facilities in Australia.

Our management, planning and preparedness has been independently verified by the Commonwealth Ombudsman and Comcare.

In relation to recent incidents relating to COVID-19:

  • A staff member based in Brisbane tested positive to COVID-19 on 18 March, but had not worked in a detention facility for 11 days before the diagnosis. There have been no further cases linked to the staff member.
  • One individual who has not been in a detention facility since April 2018, and who has been living in the community in Melbourne tested positive to COVID-19 on 06 July 2020. The individual is self-isolating in line with current community health advice.
  • A staff member based in Melbourne tested positive for COVID-19 on 8 July after developing symptoms on 7 July. They had not worked at any detention facility since 4 July and did not have any symptoms until several days after that shift. There have been no further cases linked to the staff member.
  • A number of staff employed at VIDC who had recently been to the Crossroads Hotel in Sydney are currently self-quarantining in line with NSW Health guidelines. All have tested negative for COVID-19 and none have displayed any COVID-19 symptoms.

In all these cases, responses have been comprehensive and in line with state and federal health guidelines. Where appropriate, all necessary quarantining, testing, contact tracing and deep cleaning has been carried out.

The ABF’s meticulous adherence to expert health advice in response to cases where staff have been – or may have been – exposed to COVID-19 demonstrates our vigilance and commitment to the safety of our staff, detainees and the Australian community.

Extensive plans have been developed and are in place to manage any potential cases of COVID-19 among detainees or staff.

Any detainee who presents with flu-like or potential COVID-19 symptoms is being tested and quarantined, and receives appropriate medical care.

In addition:

  • Detainees in APODs, including hotels, are kept separate from other guests and the public.
  • Staff across all facilities receive daily temperature checks and briefings to ensure they adhere to hygiene procedures and escalate potential cases where required;
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is supplied to all staff;
  • Additional cleaning services are in place at all facilities, with a particular focus on communal areas, high traffic areas and common touch points;
  • Additional soap and hand sanitizer is available to all detainees;
  • Social distancing markers are being used in all facilities;
  • Visits have been suspended to reduce the risk of visitors bringing the virus into facilities;
  • Extra health screening is in place for new arrivals into detention;
  • Separate accommodation and transport vehicles are being used for newly detained persons;

The ABF will continue to monitor and adjust its COVID-19 response arrangements to the advice provided by health officials and through any updated CDNA guidelines.

Michael Outram APM


Australian Border Force

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