Concerns are mounting over a federal government plan to upgrade and reclassify a Broadmeadows immigration detention centre to a high security facility.
The Immigration and Border Protection Department is proposing a $29 million upgrade of the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation (MITA) centre next on Camp Road.
If approved, the centre will be one of only three high-risk facilities in Australia.
The proposal is being considered by the Parliamentary Standing Committee for Public Works, but has sparked concerns among Broadmeadows residents and local politicians.
Calwell MP Maria Vamvakinou, Broadmeadows MP Frank McGuire, Hume mayor Drew Jessop, councillors and Broadmeadows Progress Association members met last week to discuss the plan.
Ms Vamvakinou said the community felt it had been left in the dark.
“At the meeting, community members said no-one from the government had spoken to them prior to making the decision to upgrade MITA,” she said. “The community also said it would like to see more information about the social, economic and historical implications on Broadmeadows if this proposal goes ahead.”
Ms Vamvakinou said people were angry that the upgrade was the federal government’s only investment in the area.
In a submission to the committee, the department said the upgrade would provide 140 beds across two high security compounds.
It said the centre needed to be upgraded because of a “recent trend towards a higher risk detention population”.
“The low-risk MITA facility must be upgraded to ensure the accommodation is suitable to house a range of detainees, including higher risk individuals,” the department said.
“The upgrade of the MITA facility will have no increased long-term impact on the local community.”
Cr Jessop said the council had made a submission to the committee, making it clear it held concerns about the “significant changes” to the use of MITA.
“Council and the community have had a long-term and well-publicised view that the site could better be used to invest in community services and facilities that support and strengthen Hume,” he said.
“Council has strongly advocated against a detention centre in Broadmeadows since 2005 through out Links not Locks campaign.”
Work is expected to begin in March and be finished in October. Residents must lodge submissions to the committee by February 10.
Anyone needing help with their submission is asked to contact Ms Vamvakinou’s office on 9367 5216. The committee will hold a public meeting in Broadmeadows on February 20.