WHEN you see a sally port you should be aware you are in a secure facility.
Entry to Yongah Hill Immigration Detention Centre is through a sally port – a cage with a door at either end large enough to admit vehicles.
Only one door is open at a time and after entry into the secure area both doors are shut until clearance is obtained.
I went on a two-hour tour of the centre recently with the local Community Reference Group and immediately I was inside the sally port I was immediately conscious of confinement.
There is heavy steel mesh everywhere with the outside fence topped by sets of electric wires.
Those who believe the detainees – or clients to use the official term – are treated like ‘royalty’ would swiftly lose that opinion once behind the mesh.
Detainees wear a high-tech bracelet which allows them entry at specified times to restricted areas.
These bracelets allow detainees to be continuously monitored.
There has been a lot of local comment about the two artificial turf soccer pitches.
In fact they are not full size but large only enough for six-a-side games.
Under the dominant roof is a basketball court and a gymnasium area.
What is impressive is the kitchen.
It is truly state of the art with convection ovens, steam ovens and a bakers oven.
This is understandable as food has to be provided to satisfy a range of cultures and religions.
The most embarrassing moment of the tour came in the cavernous mess hall when the visitors walked in to find Serco staff practising restraint holds.
There is a second kitchen with electric stoves for detainees.
Visitors were told that detainees often prepared ethnic food for community events – something for us to look forward to.
There is a library, education centre and a computer room which detainees can use to contact families and friends in their home countries.
Detainees also have a shop.
Centre currency is individual allowance points which accumulate.
Cigarettes will be on sale and should prove popular – for a while.
The smoking rate among detainees is generally three times higher than among Australians.
But the Australian price of cigarettes is hugely higher and should encourage Quit activities.
There is a well-equipped medical centre.
The 600 detainees will be housed in dongas in four compounds with three volleyball courts in each compound.
The dongas themselves are second-hand coming from Ravensthorpe where BHP Billiton closed down a nickel mine it was planning.
And the rooms, designed to accommodate one person, are tiny.
Each room has a rudimentary ensuite.
The accommodation puts to flight any concept of luxury.
A fascinating tour, but a pleasure to get outside.