The Australian Human Rights Commission visited the immigration detention facilities at Villawood from 21 to 25 February 2011. This statement contains a summary of the key observations and concerns arising from the Commission’s visit. It focuses on conditions as they were at that time.
Villawood is located approximately 25 kilometres west of Sydney in New South Wales. People are held in two immigration detention facilities there – Villawood Immigration Detention Centre (IDC) and Sydney Immigration Residential Housing (IRH). During the Commission’s visit, there were 413 people detained in these facilities.8 The facilities are operated by Serco Australia, the detention service provider contracted by the Australian Government..
The Commission has raised concerns about immigration detention at Villawood for more than a decade.9 In its 2008 Immigration detention report, the Commission raised serious concerns and made recommendations about issues including the ageing and inappropriate infrastructure at Villawood IDC; the prison-like nature of Stage 1 (the highest security section, now called Blaxland compound); the lack of adequate access to open grassy space, exercise facilities and reading materials; the limited availability of external excursions; the use of restraints; the use of separation areas; the lack of onsite interpreters; and the lack of onsite health and mental health staff at Sydney IRH.10 While some of those issues have been, or are in the process of being, addressed, others are yet to be acted upon..
The Commission’s concerns about the detention facilities at Villawood have increased over the past year as the number of people detained in the facilities has increased and Villawood IDC has been the site of three apparent suicides and a number of protests, hunger strikes and serious self- harm incidents. These concerns prompted the Commission to conduct a comprehensive visit and inspection in February 2011.