by Katie Coulthard | @coulthard_katie
Asylum seekers detained in a Broadmeadows immigration facility have today been told of proposed changes to reclassify the centre as ‘high security’ within the coming weeks.
Pamela Curr, a detention advocate from the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) told Catalyst detainees have been advised the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation centre (MITA) will be divided into four secure, separate areas according to ‘gender and composition’.
#BREAKING just received reports #MITA Detention Centre to be converted to a High Security Detention Centre. Very distressed #asylumseekers.
— Kon Karapanagiotidis (@Kon__K) April 19, 2016
Under this arrangement, the detainees will be barred from visiting others in different compounds, unless under supervision at a set time in the visitors area of the centre. Any request to do so must also be approved by SERCO security guards.
The first group is expected to be separated tomorrow. Single adult men will be moved and required to share rooms due to inadequate space in the facility. The ASRC understands single adult women and families will also be relocated shortly.
Refugees deemed by ASIO as a ‘security risk’ will be exempt from the new operating model due to ‘special circumstances’.
Pamela Curr described the measures as “punitive and cruel”.
“It’s brutal, cruel and breaking up friendships and support networks formed by people who have been in detention for a very long time,” she said.
“There’s a young man with a girlfriend in the centre who will be separated and must apply in writing to SERCO for permission to visit her.”
Those facing imminent removal from previous arrangements are ‘highly distressed’ and concerned at the sudden new policy.
Curr believes reclassification of the previously low-security centre has advanced since parents with children were released from the centre into community detention two weeks ago.
It is unclear whether external visitors to the centre will also be subject to new guidelines. A Facebook group who coordinate weekly visits to MITA currently has more than 1,800 members.
Curr and other refugee advocates plan to visit the centre tomorrow to obtain more information and details of the changes.
The new system, implemented by the Department of Immigration’s Border Force agency, is yet to be publically confirmed by officials.
Catalyst has contacted the Department for comment.