13.07.2020: Around 30 Serco guards at the Villawood detention centre have been stood down to self-isolate after up to fifty Serco workers attended a Villawood manager’s party at the Casula Crossroads Hotel, the site of a COVID outbreak. It is understood the party at the hotel took place on the weekend of 4,5 July.
Unconfirmed reports indicate that only nine of the guards have returned negative tests for COVID-19. While, as yet, there is no confirmed positive test among the Serco party-goers, 30 others have been required to have follow-up tests.
An unknown number of the guards who attended the party have been working at the detention centre since the party, potentially exposing refugees and asylum seekers as well as other workers if any of them were infected.
Guards are prevented from using PPE equipment inside the Villawood detention centre. Even hand sanitiser is confiscated from guards trying to bring it in for personal use.
Infection-prevention measures inside the detention centres are essentially non-existent. Shamefully, there has been no announcement at the Villawood detention centre and no arrangement for testing of asylum seekers or other detainees, even though many detainees have individual health conditions that make them especially vulnerable.
The Villawood scandal comes after the revelation that a guard at the Mantra Hotel in Melbourne, being used to hold Medevac refugees from PNG and Nauru, was revealed to have tested positive for COVID-19.
While there is no known connection between the Mantra case and Villawood, the two instances have demonstrated yet again that refugees and asylum seekers are being exposed to unnecessary risk by being held in such a very high-risk environment.
“We are again calling for Border Force to act immediately to release all detainees. Immigration detainees cannot be safely held in the detention centres and prison-hotels,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition, “Seven years ago they risked their lives to get to safety. Instead of safety, the government is still playing with their lives.”
For more information, contact Ian Rintoul 0417 275 713