Current policy

In Australia, immigration detention forms a part of the Australian immigration policy under the Migration Act 1958 (Cth). People who intend to seek asylum in Australia but who arrive without already having been granted a refugee protection visa are placed in mandatory detention while their application for refugee status is considered. Those who arrive by boat are known as illegal maritime arrivals (IMAs).

In late 2013, a policy was implemented as part of ‘Operation Sovereign Borders’ which enforced the turning back of boats filled with asylum seekers (IMAs) trying to reach Australian shores. Further policy was put in place to deter asylum seekers trying to reach Australia in this way, resulting in the mandatory offshore processing of those arriving by boat and the prevention of asylum ever being granted in Australia.

While in detention, asylum seekers undergo health and security checks. People who arrive without a visa and choose to return to their home country can do so at any time.

For the latest policy updates refer to the Department of Home Affairs.

The Australian immigration detention facilities include:

  • Immigration Detention Centres (IDC)
  • Immigration Residential Housing (IRH)
  • Immigration Transit Accommodation (ITA)
  • Alternative Places of Detention (APOD)
  • Regional (offshore) Processing Centres (RPC)

Regional Processing Centres, currently located in Nauru and Manus Island (in Papua New Guinea), function differently as they are not under the jurisdiction of Australia, so are not guided by the same laws and policies.

For current information on Australian policy regarding asylum seekers and detention, visit Department of Home Affairs or Refugee Council of Australia.

Children in Immigration Detention

Following the Australian Human Rights Commission’s National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention in 2014, changes were made to Australian immigration policy regarding the detaining of children in immigration detention. Children are therefore no longer permitted to be detained. However some children are still residing in the Regional Processing Centre (RPC) on Nauru.

For more information regarding current statistics, see Department of Home Affairs Statistical Report Year at a Glance.

Community detention

Community detention describes the process where the government houses people without visas within communities whilst their visa application is processed. In the community people are able to access essential services such as food, medical supplies and education. Children can attend school.

The Australian Red Cross supports people in community detention.

More information

Department of Home Affairs: Immigration detention in Australia

Asylum Seeker Resource Centre » Statistics

Refugee Council of Australia

Australian Human Rights Commission - Asylum Seekers, Refugees and Human Rights: Snapshot Report (2nd Edition) 2017

Amnesty International

Australian Human Rights Commission » our work » asylum seekers and refugees