Media release

Corporate complicity in immigration detention heightens risk during public health crisis

Commenting on reports that riot police have entered Villawood Immigration Detention Centre, Dhakshayini Sooriyakumaran, Human Rights Director, Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility said:

“Immigration detention facilities during a pandemic are a ticking time bomb for both those imprisoned inside it and for the workers who have to carry out their duties.

“Companies like Serco which provide immigration detention and security services on behalf of the government, cannot discharge their human rights responsibilities, in the absence of government inaction to stem a potential escalation of this public health crisis.

“To discharge this responsibility, corporations should not facilitate immigration detention during the Covid-19 pandemic where they cannot guarantee both the fundamental human rights of people in their care as well as, in particular, a nil or negligible risk of infection.

Sarah Dale, Centre Director & Principal Solicitor, Refugee Advice & Casework Service (RACS) said: “RACS has stood for the release of people from immigration detention facilities; the health and medical advice is clear, there is a heightened risk of a cluster in an immigration detention facility, and therefore all should be protected from that risk.

“At RACS we have spoken to many people in detention, they are scared and they are anxious – they don’t have the option to socially distance when they share rooms with multiple people and see different staff coming in and out of these facilities. It’s the epitome of every situation the Government has otherwise advised against.



Dhakshayini Sooriyakumaran | | +61 475 458 201

Sarah Dale | | +61 419 200 637


An estimated 1440 people are currently held in immigration detention in Australia [1]. They have been identified as one of four groups at highest risk from Covid-19 [2].

Serco Group provides immigration detention and security services on behalf of the Australian government including:

  • Adelaide Immigration Transit Accommodation
  • Brisbane Immigration Transit Accommodation and Fraser Compound
  • Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation
  • Northern Alternative Place of Detention
  • Perth Immigration Detention Centre
  • Villawood Immigration Detention Centre
  • Yongah Hill Immigration Detention Centre

On 19 March 2020, there were reports that a Serco guard had tested positive for Covid-19. Concerningly, detainees who had been in contact with that guard had not been tested for the virus, and social-isolation measures and increased hygiene measures had not been put in place [3]. In response, detainees have written to the Australian government, expressing their grave concerns regarding virus transition in detention [4].

The Australasian Society for Infectious Diseases (Asid), the Australian College of Infection Prevention and Control (ACIPC) and Doctors for Refugees have all said detainees need to be released from held detention urgently to prevent rapid Covid-19 transmission.

  1. ↩︎

  2. ↩︎

  3. ↩︎

  4. ↩︎