Australia: No, these photos don't show a prison for unvaccinated people
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A video alleging to show buildings constructed in Australia to "hold the unvaccinated" made the rounds on social media in early November, garnering lots of attention and horrified comments. The caption and the sound on the video refer to "quarantine facilities" meant to lock up people who choose not to get the Covid-19 jab. However, the building shown in this video, which has been viewed more than 160,000 times, has nothing to do with the pandemic – it's an "accommodation centre" for immigrants and was built well before Covid-19 spread around the world.
"Absolutely appalling," said this Twitter user on November 11, posting a video which allegedly showed "double fenced electrified Quarantine facilities" meant to detain unvaccinated people in Australia. The video was shared by the account @Resist_05, which regularly shares posts against vaccination and vaccine passports. The video garnered more than 100,000 views in less than a day, as well as plenty of comments expressing horror that the Australian government would build a facility like this.
This is absolutely appalling.. double fenced electrified Quarantine facilities been built in Queensland Australia to hold the unvaccinated. pic.twitter.com/ZgTvgyo5nK— Pelham (@Resist_05) November 11, 2021
The video, which was picked up by accounts in other languages such as French, was indeed taken in Brisbane, Australia. However, the facility shown was constructed well before the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. Here's how we confirmed that.
Finding the detention centre
In order to find this building, you can find a few geographic clues by listening to the sound in the video. The person filming mentions the "airport" and "Brisbane". You can also hear the sounds of passing cars, indicating that there is a major road nearby.
By searching on Google Maps for the keywords "Brisbane detention", you can also find a few useful results. One of the four results which appear in this search is near the airport: the Brisbane Immigration Transit Accommodation Centre. If we want to verify that this is indeed the facility in this video, we can use satellite imagery.
On Google Earth, there are a few photos of this detention centre dating from November 2021. You can use these to match up key indications that match with the building in the video published by @Resist_05. In particular, we can match up two outdoor basketball courts, a metal air vent that goes around one of the buildings, and two awnings near one of the courts. Matching up these elements makes it clear that the building in the video is indeed the Immigration Transit Accommodation Centre, filmed from a grassy area near Lomandra Drive.
An extension built as a quarantine centre?
Having identified the location, we can now turn to verifying whether the facility seen in the video was indeed build to incarcerate unvaccinated Australians. We can use Google Earth's historical satellite imagery tool. The buildings in question are located at the northern edge of the facility's grounds. They didn't exist in satellite imagery taken in October 2017, appearing for the first time in images dated May 2019 – there are no other images on Google between these two dates. Therefore, the extension was built sometime before May 2019, months before the Covid-19 pandemic began. It couldn't have been built for quarantine purposes.
We can also confirm this by looking at the Australian government's website, where past contracts are posted. A "request for tender" was published in May 3, 2017 by the Department of Home Affairs for an upgrade to the Brisbane Immigration Transit Accommodation Facility. According to this request, the accommodation facility wanted to increase its capacity to be able to hold 50 more detainees.
Then, another request was filed in August 2019 in order to increase the facility's security by installing an anti-climbing barrier and pedestrian gates. These changes were all implemented before the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.
So, while this video was indeed filmed in Australia near the Brisbane airport, there is no evidence to prove that the facility pictured was built to house unvaccinated people. In fact, the facility and the extension buildings were all built well before the pandemic began.