News Coronavirus Asylum seekers scared after detention centre guard is diagnosed with COVID

Asylum seekers scared after detention centre guard is diagnosed with COVID

A refugee waves as he leaves the Park Hotel in Melbourne earlier in 2021. Photo: Kelsey Hannah
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A guard at a Melbourne detention centre has tested positive for COVID-19, but authorities say he hasn’t infected any asylum seekers being held there.

Victoria’s COVID-19 Commander Jeroen Weimar says the security guard worked on the outside facing parts of the Melbourne Immigration Transit Centre and did not have contact with staff inside the facility.

He says none of the asylum seekers being detained there have tested positive for the virus.

“We’ve, of course, done the usual full testing regime of both the residents of that centre and the staff that were there,” Mr Weimar told reporters.

“That work started a couple of days ago and we’ve had no positive tests come out of that facility at the moment.”

The ABF said a contracter at MITA tested positive, but he last worked there more than 12 days ago and did not come into contact with any detainees.

“The ABF and the contracted service provider have worked with Public Health to minimise transmission risk in accordance with infection control and public health procedures,” a spokesperson told AAP.

An asylum seeker being held at Melbourne’s Park Hotel, from where detainees are regularly transferred to and from MITA, said an Australian Border Force official told them the guard hadn’t visited the hotel.

“He was like saying one of the staff get COVID but he’s not been here – he didn’t come here (the hotel),” the asylum seeker told AAP.

‘Very angry here’

“And people get very angry here.”

The asylum seeker said those detained at the hotel were worried they were being put at risk as guards there had not been wearing their face masks properly.

The ABF said the Department of Home Affairs and its contractors had implemented infection control and outbreak management measures in line with Commonwealth guidelines.·

The spokesperson said the ABF was offering COVID-19 vaccinations to all detainees who wished to receive the jab.

The Refugee Action Coalition said it was a reminder to the federal and state governments that asylum seekers being detained were at higher risk.

“Many detainees have underlying medical conditions that make them more vulnerable to serious illness,” RAC spokesman Ian Rintoul said in a statement.

“The people in immigration detention should be released. It is a disgrace that they have not been released before this, but it’s time for the government to act.”