Conditions in an immigration detention centre are a "disaster waiting to happen", a Ballarat advocate has warned.
Maureen Riches, of the Ballarat branch of Rural Australians for Refugees, has said prevention measures to counter the spread of COVID-19 were impossible to follow at the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation (MITA).
She said overcrowding - both in shared rooms and at meal times - was exposing the residents at the Serco-run centre to much greater risks than elsewhere.
"The detention centres are a real disaster waiting to happen," Ms Riches told The Courier. "They are living in close quarters, they are not able to socially distance like us. "
Previously Ms Riches said another concern was the body-searches staff at the centre conducted. However, this week officials stopped visits to the centre altogether.
Speaking to The Courier on condition of anonymity, one detainee said that despite the no-visit policy guards were still often in close contact, including impromptu room inspections.
"People are worried. The staff are [still] doing the same things with us, there is no social distance. Even if you want to, you can't.
"The design is very confined spaces, the rooms [are] very small. I am using the same public toilet anyone can use."
They have already suffered long terms of unjust imprisonment. The time to show compassion and deliver justice is nowRural Australians for Refugees
"Medical people are advising one and a half metres [distance]. We can't do that.
"A lot of people, they're scared but they can't do anything. If one person is infected, we'll get 30 to 50 cases. "
The detainee also reported that other people confined to the centre who were already in ill-health had not received prescription medicines on time.
There were also concerns about treatment in case of more everyday illnesses, with the detainee saying panadol had run out for those suffering conditions such as colds and influenza.
Neither concern was directly addressed in a response from the Department of Home Affairs.
However, a spokesperson said no detainees across the immigration detention network had tested positive for COVID-19 so far and that infection control plans were in place.
In the emailed response, they wrote that "detainees displaying any COVID-19 symptoms may be quarantined and tested in line with advice from health officials".
Authorities have already indicated prison inmates deemed low risk may be released early as part of the attempt to slow the potential spread of COVID-19.
Ms Riches said residents at MITA should also be offered the same option in the circumstances - or alternatively be placed in community detention.
"Unlike those in prisons, they have not committed any crime," she said.
In a statement, the Rural Australians for Refugees also called for their immediate release.
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