Melbourne’s purpose-built quarantine hub could be used to house hundreds of refugees fleeing war-torn Afghanistan and Ukraine.
Victorian authorities are in discussions with its federal counterparts about alternative ways to use the largely vacant $200 million Centre for National Resilience at Mickleham, Premier Daniel Andrews confirmed on Thursday.
The centre, built by the Commonwealth, opened as a 500-bed site in February to house unvaccinated international travellers, before the state dropped its seven-day quarantine requirement.
It has since been scaling back its capacity so it will be at 250 beds from July 1, while offering accommodation to COVID-positive people who prefer not to isolate themselves at home.
Mr Andrews said he was briefed on a plan on Wednesday to house some of about 500 refugees coming to Australia from Afghanistan and about 200 from Ukraine.
“There’s active work being done to see whether Mickleham, of course in partnership with the Commonwealth and other service providers, might well be the perfect place to provide those people with the resettlement that they need,” Mr Andrews said.
It is believed the centre would only temporarily house refugees as more permanent accommodation is sought.
The Andrews government lobbied the Morrison government for months to build the facility after repeated COVID-19 leaks out of hotel quarantine.
The premier insisted the hub will now come in handy for future crises such as bushfires and floods since it no longer serves as a quarantine facility for international arrivals.
“That facility is in some respects a bit of an insurance policy,” Mr Andrews said.
“If we had that facility (earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic), we would have used it. Next time we need it, we’ll use it.”
The Department of Home Affairs has been contacted for comment.