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A mass break-out at Sydney's Villawood detention centre has been foiled, the Immigration Department says.

Seventeen people, 16 Chinese nationals and one Malaysian, tried to escape from the centre in the early hours of Thursday morning.

Two of the detainees in the group, who had all overstayed their visas and were not asylum-seekers, received minor injuries in the incident and are being treated in hospital.

"The department views any escape from its immigration detention facilities very seriously," an Immigration Department spokeswoman told AAP on Friday.

"(The department) has called for a full investigation and a report from its detention service provider on what occurred."

The incident is the latest in a string of major security breaches including wild riots in April during which asylum-seekers set fire to buildings.