Villawood Immigration Detention Centre

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Villawood IDC.

Villawood Immigration Detention Centre, originally Villawood Migrant Hostel or Villawood Migrant Centre, split into a separate section named Westbridge Migrant Hostel from 1968 to 1984, is an Australian immigration detention facility located in the suburb of Villawood in Sydney, Australia.

Built in 1949 to accommodate post-war refugees from Europe, a section of the original camp was converted into an immigration detention centre in 1976.


Villawood Migrant Hostel[edit]

The site of the detention centre was previously known as the Villawood Migrant Hostel or Villawood Migrant Centre, built in 1949 to house migrants from post-war Europe to work in local industries.[1][2] The centre was run by Commonwealth Hostels Ltd, a non-profit company. By 1964 the centre housed 1,425 people, mainly from Britain and Europe.[3] By 1969 it was the largest migrant hostel in Australia, and was at that time housing migrants from Britain, The Netherlands, Denmark, West Germany, France, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and Turkey.[4] In 1968 the centre was divided into two sections, one named the Villawood Migrant Hostel and the other named the Westbridge Migrant Hostel, which operated until 1984.[3]

Conversion to a detention centre[edit]

In 1976 a small section of the hostel was converted to provide security accommodation for persons awaiting deportation. This new section was named the Villawood Immigration Detention Centre.[3][5]

In 2001 the Villawood Immigration Detention Centre was the subject of controversy when 40 asylum seekers escaped. A month later, a Four Corners documentary, "The Inside Story", revealed the plight of six-year-old Iranian refugee Shayan Bedraie, who had been refusing to speak or eat. Shayan and his family had been detained at Woomera IRPC for 11 months and Villawood IDC for at least 6 months, and had witnessed a number of riots and self-harm incidents. He was periodically taken to hospital to be drip-fed and rehydrated, and then returned to detention.[6]

Protesters at the detention centre as of 22 April 2011.

Management of the centre was outsourced to private company G4S Australia from 2003 to 2009.[7]

In January 2008, the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) said the high-security section of Villawood Detention Centre was the "most prison like" of all Australia's immigration detention centres, and demanded it be closed immediately. The HREOC described the infrastructure as dilapidated, and conditions inside the detention centre as "harsh and inhospitable". [8]

Early in the morning of Thursday 21 April 2011, the centre was set alight by detainees.[9]

In 2020 the centre adopted various measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia, but human rights organisations including HREOC have called upon the Australian Government to allow detainees to release detainees into the community to better protect themselves against COVID-19, as social distancing is not possible in the centre.[10]


Villawood Detention Centre is located at 15 Birmingham Avenue, Villawood.[11]

It houses a mix of asylum seekers, people who have overstayed their visas and Section 501 detainees who have had their visas cancelled following criminal convictions and are awaiting deportation after serving prison sentences. At 31 May 2021 it held 485 people including 278 Section 501 visa cancellations, 74 asylum seekers who arrived by boat, and 133 detainees in other categories.[12]

People refused entry into the country at international airports and seaports may also be detained there.[13] The centre has been the focus of much controversy, with accusations of human rights abuses.[14]

Since 2009 the centre has been managed by private prison company Serco.[7][14][15] with the Australian Border Force, an agency of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, responsible for the welfare of the detainees.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "FIRM'S OWN HOSTEL AT VILLAWOOD". The Biz. 23 June 1949. p. 10. Retrieved 15 February 2017.
  2. ^ "Bathurst Migrant Camp". NSW Migration Heritage Centre. A Place For Everyone – Bathurst Migrant Camp 1948-1952 [exhibition]. 2011. Retrieved 1 September 2021.
  3. ^ a b c Dunn, Mark (2010). "Villawood detention centre [history of site]". Dictionary of Sydney. Retrieved 15 February 2017.
  4. ^ "New look for Australia's biggest migrant hostel". The Good Neighbour. No. 181. Australian Capital Territory. 1 February 1969. p. 4. Retrieved 15 February 2017.
  5. ^ "Villawood Immigration Detention Centre in Sydney (NSW)", Department of Immigration and Citizenship, retrieved 25 April 2013
  6. ^ Whitmont, Debbie (27 August 2001). "The Inside Story". Four Corners. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Archived from the original on 27 August 2001. Retrieved 1 September 2021.
  7. ^ a b Joint Select Committee on Australia’s Immigration Detention Network (12 April 2012). "Chapter 3: The Department's administration of its contract with Serco". Final Report. Parliament of Australia (Report). ISBN 978-1-74229-611-1. Retrieved 1 September 2021. PDF
  8. ^ "Villawood targeted as worst in country". The Sydney Morning Herald. 10 January 2008. Retrieved 10 January 2008.
  9. ^ "Villawood Detention Centre: Riots, Fire & Protests". The Sydney Morning Herald. 21 April 2011. Retrieved 21 April 2011.
  10. ^ "Villawood Immigration Detention Centre, Sydney". Oxford Law Faculty. 4 June 2020. Retrieved 1 September 2021.
  11. ^ a b "Immigration detention in Australia". Australian Border Force. Retrieved 1 September 2021.
  12. ^ "Immigration Detention and Community Statistics Summary, 31 May 2021" (PDF). Department of Home Affairs. p. 8. Retrieved 26 July 2021.
  13. ^ "Villawood Immigration Detention Facility in Sydney (NSW) - Facilities - Detention Services". 29 October 2008. Retrieved 31 October 2013.
  14. ^ a b Hassan, Mohamed (5 April 2016). "NZer dies in Australian detention centre". Radio New Zealand. Retrieved 12 February 2017.
  15. ^ Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (2019). "Submission: The role of private military and security companies in immigration and border management and the impact on the protection of the rights of all migrants" (PDF). {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 33°52′28″S 150°59′22″E / 33.874424°S 150.989571°E / -33.874424; 150.989571