Non-compliance with COVID-19 rules in immigration detention breaches WHS Act

17th Apr 2020

Reported failures to enforce COVID-19 social distancing rules in immigration detention centres is a breach of Commonwealth workplace health and safety laws, according to the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA).

“Reports from asylum seekers in detention indicate that there are clear breaches of Commonwealth workplace health and safety laws,” said Mr Andrew Christopoulos, National President, Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA).

“Workplace regulator Comcare appears to be failing to enforce the health-related duties imposed on Home Affairs and the Australian Border Force by the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.

“We know that detention facilities have been officially identified as high risk COVID-19 settings and so it is especially important that compliance with the rules is enforced in these centres.”

The Victorian based Refugee Action Collective has written to the National Cabinet calling for immediate action on this issue and the ALA has previously called on Government to explain the steps that have been taken to ensure social distancing rules are being followed in detention.

“The risk of an outbreak of COVID-19 in a detention centre is extremely serious. There are
lots of people living in close confinement, and the infection rates on cruise ships has shown
us how quickly this virus can spread among large groups of people,” said Mr Christopoulos.

“It is the responsibility of the government and the private contractors running the detention
centres to ensure all detainees are kept safe by following the health guidelines.

 “Australia has a non-delegable duty of care to people seeking asylum in Australia.

“We can’t see how it is possible to maintain appropriate social distancing in such crowded
living arrangements, and to ensure appropriate distance between staff and detainees at all
“The Commonwealth has a legal responsibility for all people in its custody and this
pandemic poses a huge health threat to asylum seekers in detention.
“These conditions are not only a risk for detainees but also for staff and therefore the
broader community and must be addressed.”


Tags: Human rights Asylum seekers and refugees COVID-19