It mainly caters for people who have overstayed their visa permit or those who had their visa cancelled because they have failed to comply with their visa conditions, and some adult male and female asylum seekers who have arrived by boat without visas, whom the Australian government refer to as "Illegal Maritime Arrivals".
Though, over the decades since the '50s, various Australian federal legislatures have ratified into law many of the provisions of the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which specifically grants a right for refugees to apply for asylum - with or without identifying documentation). People refused entry into the country at international airports and seaports may also be detained there.
Villawood Migrant Hostel
The site of the Detention Centre was previously known as the Villawood Migrant Hostel, built in 1949 to house migrants from post-war Europe to work in local industries. 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. 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. 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.
Conversion to a Detention Centre
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.
As of 20 October 2004, the centre accommodated 551 people. This number comprised 405 adult men, 105 adult women and 41 children.
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". 
In December 2010, a 29-year-old British man wanted for a number of criminal offences in the UK, and was due to be deported, was believed to have committed suicide at Villawood IDC. His death was the third suicide at the Villawood centre since September 2010.
Early in the morning of Thursday 21 April 2011, the centre was set alight by detainees.
The centre is located at 15 Birmingham Avenue, Villawood NSW 2163.
- List of Australian immigration detention facilities
- We Can Be Heroes: Finding The Australian of the Year
- "Villawood Immigration Detention Facility in Sydney (NSW) - Facilities - Detention Services". Immi.gov.au. 29 October 2008. Retrieved 31 October 2013.
- Hassan, Mohamed (5 April 2016). "NZer dies in Australian detention centre". Radio New Zealand. Retrieved 12 February 2017.
- "FIRM'S OWN HOSTEL AT VILLAWOOD". The Biz. 23 June 1949. p. 10. Retrieved 15 February 2017.
- Dunn, Mark (2010). "Villawood detention centre [history of site]". Dictionary of Sydney. Retrieved 15 February 2017.
- "NEW LOOK FOR AUSTRALIA'S BIGGEST MIGRANT HOSTEL". The Good Neighbour (181). Australian Capital Territory. 1 February 1969. p. 4. Retrieved 15 February 2017.
- "Villawood Immigration Detention Centre in Sydney (NSW)", Department of Immigration and Citizenship, retrieved 25 April 2013
- "The Inside Story: An inside view of what is going on in detention centres.", ABC, 13 August 2001
- "Villawood targeted as worst in country". The Sydney Morning Herald. 10 January 2008. Retrieved 10 January 2008.
- "Villawood Detention Centre: Riots, Fire & Protests". The Sydney Morning Herald. 21 April 2011. Retrieved 21 April 2011.
- "Contact Details for the Villawood Immigration Detention Centre". Department of Immigration and Citizenship. Retrieved 5 September 2008.
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- Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs – Villawood Immigration Detention Centre
- Four Corners – The Inside Story