Statement regarding management of Covid in detention in Melbourne

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 to safeguard the health and wellbeing of those in the detention network, including detainees, staff, contractors, and visitors.
  • As for other confined facilities and quarantine hotels, ongoing consultation with state health authorities has been critical to minimise infection while enabling legitimate movement, visits, and delivery of key services.
  • For a period of more than twenty months since the start of the pandemic, no detainee in an immigration detention facility had tested positive to COVID-19, despite the escalating rates of infection in the community and other close quarters living facilities.
  • This is testament to our preparations for managing the risks of COVID-19 in the detention network. From early 2020, to protect detainees and those working in the network, the ABF implemented 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 and public health advice.
  • Throughout the pandemic, COVID-19 management planning for Australia’s immigration detention network has been subject to oversight, reviews and inspections by the Commonwealth Ombudsman, Australian Human Rights Commission and Comcare.
  • The Delta variant of COVID-19 has posed significant new challenges globally, nationally, and in close quarters environments like aged care and correctional facilities.
  • The first cases of detainees testing positive to COVID-19 were detected on 17 October 2021 in the Melbourne APOD, more than twenty months after the start of the pandemic.
  • The ABF’s protective measures, including the roll out of vaccines to those that wished to be inoculated, and strict protocols regarding use of Personal Protective Equipment to deliver services in a COVID-safe way when required, have minimised the risk of large scale outbreaks despite the contained environment.
  • Planning for the vaccination roll out for detainees commenced in May 2021, involving the Department of Health and detention health providers in developing governance, sourcing vaccinations, providing information about vaccines to detainees, and obtaining consent. 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. Detainees, like members of the community, are free to make personal decisions about their vaccination status. Individuals 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.
  • 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 any immigration detention facility.
  • 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. The ABF has implemented health advice and provided assurance to Victorian authorities to ensure 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.
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