Melbourne's purpose-built quarantine hub could house hundreds of refugees fleeing war-torn Afghanistan and Ukraine.
Victorian authorities are in discussions with 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 and operated by the state, was opened as a 500-bed site in February and initially housed unvaccinated international travellers, before the state dumped its seven-day quarantine requirement.
It has since been scaling back capacity to 250 beds from July 1, while offering accommodation to COVID-positive people who prefer not to isolate at home.
There were 55 residents at the facility as of 11pm on Wednesday, according to data on the state's COVID-19 accommodation program.
Mr Andrews said he was briefed on Wednesday about a plan 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," he told reporters.
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.
Despite it no longer serving as a quarantine hub for international arrivals, the premier insists it will come in handy for future crises such as bushfires and floods.
"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."
Since the start of Russia's invasion in late February, more than 3200 Ukrainian visa holders have arrived in Australia. More than 8000 visas have been granted to Ukrainians at home and elsewhere in that span, most of them temporary.
In contrast, Australia granted more than 15,200 permanent visas to Afghans under the nation's humanitarian program from mid-2013 to May 1 this year.
"Afghan citizens have historically been a prominent caseload in the offshore Humanitarian Program and have been in the top five countries of origin over the last five years," a Home Affairs department spokesperson said in a statement.
It is understood the department does not disclose resettlement locations of visa-holding refugees for privacy reasons.
Australian Associated Press
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