Australia

5,019

Immigration detainees

2019

145

Detained children

2017

25,500,000

Population

2020

Overview

(February 2022) Australia has a severe and punitive immigration detention system. It’s policy of mandatory, indefinite detention does not distinguish between adults or children, visa violators or asylum seekers. Dozens have languished in detention for more than a decade. Private contractors, paid billions to operate centres, have been continually criticized for abusing detainees and failing to provide services. Observers have repeatedly denounced the detention regime, including its offshore operations, as violating human rights and international law. The price tag for maintaining the system is astronomical: It costs nearly $400,000 per detainee/year compared to less than $50,000 for community housing. But the physical and mental costs are even higher: Experts have documented the devastating impact of prolonged detention on the health of detainees, which has led to high levels of self-harm, long-term illnesses, and severe psychological disorders like schizophrenia.

Types of facilities used for migration-related detention
Administrative Ad Hoc Criminal Unknown

12 October 2022

Commonwealth Ombudsman and Australian Human Rights Commission, “Joint Statement on the Use of Hotels as Alternative Places of Detention,” 7 October 2022, https://www.ombudsman.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0017/115280/Joint-Statement-on-hotel-APODs.pdf
Commonwealth Ombudsman and Australian Human Rights Commission, “Joint Statement on the Use of Hotels as Alternative Places of Detention,” 7 October 2022, https://www.ombudsman.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0017/115280/Joint-Statement-on-hotel-APODs.pdf

On 7 October, Australia’s Commonwealth Ombudsman (CO) and Human Rights Commissioner (HRC) published a joint statement expressing concern regarding the country’s use of hotels for detaining refugees, migrants, and asylum seekers--in some cases for years on end.

Drawing on observations gathered by the Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman in its role as Australia’s National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) under the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT), the statement makes various important recommendations to improve detention conditions. These include the need to ensure that hotels are used for short-term detention only; that detainees have access to at least one hour of outdoor exercise each day and meaningful activity programmes; that medical and welfare services are the same standard as those provided in other detention facilities; and that detainees’ privacy rights are respected.

As well as its formal immigration detention estate (comprising Immigration Detention Centres and Immigrant Transit Accommodation), Australia operates “Alternative Places of Detention” (APODs), which include hotels repurposed for detention. Although APODs are intended to be used for short-term detention only, many immigration detainees have been confined in these facilities for lengthy periods of time. For example, large numbers of people transferred from offshore detention facilities to the mainland under now-repealed Medevac legislation were held in hotel APODs for several years. Last year, a Kurdish refugee detained in two Melbourne hotels for more than 14 months announced that he would sue the federal government for damages, arguing that his detention was illegal: “The government locked me up illegally in a hotel that they used as a prison. I want my rights back.”

According to the joint CO-HRC statement, as of 31 July 2022 there were 77 hotels approved for use as APODs, with a total of seven in operation, and the average length of detention in hotel APODs was 69 days–although the longest detention lasted a staggering 634 days. While there has been a reduction in the number of people detained in APODs in recent times, the Commonwealth Ombudsman and Human Rights Commissioner’s statement is intended to ensure that those who continue to be detained in such facilities are held in appropriate conditions and that their human rights are respected.

In November, Australia will appear before the UN Committee against Torture for its sixth periodic review. In a recent submission to the committee, the Australian Human Rights Commission highlighted additional concerns–including the country’s support of regional processing arrangements in Nauru; the continued use of mandatory immigration detention, which risks detention becoming arbitrary; and restrictions on detainees’ basic rights during the COVID-19 pandemic. (These concerns, along with many others, were also discussed in the GDP’s 2022 report on Australia’s immigration detention practices.)


21 October 2021

Asylum Seekers and Refugees Protesting Their Detention at Melbourne's Park Hotel on 18 October 2021, (The Guardian,
Asylum Seekers and Refugees Protesting Their Detention at Melbourne's Park Hotel on 18 October 2021, (The Guardian, "A COVID Incubator: Outbreak in Melbourne Refugee Detention Hotel Grows as Vaccination Rate Lags," The Guardian, 18 October 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/oct/19/a-covid-incubator-outbreak-in-melbourne-refugee-detention-hotel-grows-as-vaccination-rates-lag)

On 18 October 2021, refugees and asylum seekers detained at Melbourne’s Park Hotel held a protest against their detention at the hotel during a COVID-19 outbreak. The detained decried their shared sleeping quarters, cramped eating and recreation spaces, and the fact that many of them are medically vulnerable. Three positive cases had been confirmed and at least 40 men were awaiting test results.

By 22 October 2021, it was confirmed that nearly one-third of immigration detainees held at the Park Hotel had tested positive for COVID-19. Fifteen of 46 men were infected, one person had been taken to the hospital, 28 had tested negative, and three were awaiting results.

At a Court hearing brought by a refugee - known as FSG20 in Court - requesting orders to allow him to be assessed by paramedics, the Court heard that an ambulance was turned away from the hotel. According to the evidence presented, an ambulance was called by a friend of FSG20 after concerns about his deteriorating health condition. In a statement to the Court, his friend said: “I called the ambulance. They attended the hotel but were not permitted to enter. He was told by the nurse never to call the ambulance again.” The government rejected this and told the court that while several ambulances had been called for detainees, this ambulance or FGS20 had not arrived. Further hearings on the case were scheduled for late October..

According to figures released by the government, vaccination rates among immigration detainees are roughly a quarter as that of the general population. On 6 September, 52 percent of immigration detainees had had at least one dose and 17 percent were fully vaccinated, in contrast to 63.2 percent of Australians with one dose and 38.4 percent fully vaccinated. The Australian Border Force has claimed that all detainees have been offered COVID-19 vaccinations, stating that “the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination program to consenting detainees commenced in early August 2021 and has taken place at all immigration detention facilities across the immigration detention network.”

On the other hand, the Refugee Action Coalition argues that the Australian government has “failed to implement the most basic Covid protocols” at the Park Hotel, stating that the hotel was circulating air-conditioned air between floors with confirmed cases and floors where refugees and asylum seekers are held, while windows were sealed when refugees and asylum seekers were moved into the hotel.

According to information provided during Senate deliberations on 18 October 2021, there appears to be a large disparity in the vaccination rates for refugees and asylum seekers held at Australia offshore centres. On Nauru, 88 percent of the 107 detainees had received a first dose by 6 September 2021 and 84 percent were fully vaccinated. Yet, in Papua New Guinea, where the health system has been overrun by outbreaks, the vaccination rate for the 121 detainees was at just 20 percent for first doses and 11 percent fully vaccinated.

The outbreak within the Park Hotel comes more than a year after more than 1,100 health professionals co-signed a letter to the Home Affairs Minister, calling for all refugees and asylum seekers to be released from immigration detention as “failure to take action to release people seeking asylum and refugees from detention will (...) put them at risk of infection and possibly death” as well as “placing a greater burden on Australian society and the health care system.” (see 2 April and 26 April 2020 Australia updates on this platform).

The Australian government announced on 6 October 2021 that they would stop processing asylum seekers in Papua New Guinea at the end of 2021 and that around 124 men who remained in the country were being given the option to settle in Papua New Guinea, with a pathway to citizenship and financial support. Alternatively, they may request a transfer to Nauru where they would remain in Australia’s offshore processing system. The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre said that staying in Papua New Guinea would not be a safe option for the refugees due to the country’s worsening COVID-19 outbreak. Yet, a spokesperson for Australia’s Department of Home Affairs stated that there was “zero chance of settlement in Australia for those who come illegally by boat.”


17 September 2021

Asylum Seekers Protest Inside the Mantra Hotel in Preston, Melbourne, Australia on 16 May 2020 (Michael Dodge/AAP/PA Images,
Asylum Seekers Protest Inside the Mantra Hotel in Preston, Melbourne, Australia on 16 May 2020 (Michael Dodge/AAP/PA Images, "COVID-19 Reveals the Inherent Vindictiveness of Migration Detention," Open Democracy, 26 May 2020, https://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/05/26/covid-19-reveals-inherent-vindictiveness-migration-detention)

Previously one of the countries in the world least affected by COVID-19, Australia has been struggling to contain outbreaks of the highly infectious Delta variant across the country over recent months. The States of New South Wales, Victoria and Canberra have all experienced extended periods of lockdown over the past weeks. Immigration detention centres have not been spared, raising serious concerns once again about the conditions for the 1,400 people held in mandatory and sometimes indefinite immigration detention in Australia, including in "alternative places of detention," such as hotels and hostels.

Concerns at detention centres were heightened when it was confirmed that at least one guard at a center in Melbourne - Australia's second largest city - had tested positive for COVID-19 on 5 September. The guard is a contracted service provider at Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation (MITA) Broadmeadows Residential Precinct (BRP). Detainees in the facility expressed fears about their health and safety after confirming that five to six people were expected to share a room in bunk beds. A detainee told Al Jazeera: “They don’t test us for COVID unless we show symptoms. This means they would not actually know if it is spreading until a lot of people are sick. It could travel fast. Guards are free to come and go.”

In a separate incident, seven detainees at the Villawood Immigration Detention Centre in Sydney--one of Australia's largest detention facilities, which holds 500 people--were reported to be in isolation after a guard at the centre tested positive for COVID-19 on 12 September.

The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has described COVID-19 as a "serious threat" for the 1,492 people held in immigration detention in Australia, raising concerns about a high density of people being held in enclosed, confined spaces where a significant proportion of them have pre-existing health conditions which can worsen the outcomes of contracting COVID-19. In a report in June 2021, the AHRC said the government should "follow expert health advice by placing people who present a low security risk in community-based alternatives to closed detention" as other countries have done with success. The AHRC recommended reducing the numbers being held in immigration detention facilities, improving physical distancing, especially in overcrowded bedrooms, paying special attention to detainees with underlying health conditions, and ensuring that any resort to quarantine must be "reasonable, necessary and proportionate to addressing COVID-19 risks." People should not be held in "harsh, prison-like" conditions during their quarantine and should have access to necessary support. Vaccines should be readily available for all immigration detainees, without discrimination.

Observers in Australia have been warning for months about the high risks of COVID-19 outbreaks for refugees and asylum seekers being held in detention. They say that mitigation measures in detention centers have been inadequate throughout the pandemic and that the slow implementation of the country’s vaccination campaign has left detainees extremely vulnerable, especially in centres’ unsafe, overcrowded conditions. They urge that asylum seekers should be released immediately as they have not committed a crime and their continued detention in the midst of a pandemic can not be justified. Marie Hapke from the Australian Refugee Action Network said: “Since the beginning of the pandemic the risks of closed detention have been well documented, and experts have called for the release of all those who do not need to be held in detention. There is no justification for continuing to hold refugees in detention – now is the time to release these people into the community. It is only a matter of time before there is a major outbreak in immigration detention centres.”

Observers have noted that while the Australian government has judiciously followed the advice of epidemiologists and health care professionals in its overall management of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has consistently refused to include refugees, asylum seekers and other non-citizens in its national public health response. The government, it is argued, has continued to view this population from a perspective of national security, criminality and border control and the pandemic has reinforced Australia's regime of mandatory immigration detention. Indeed, unlike other countries in the world where the number of people being held in immigration detention dropped in the months after onset of the pandemic, in Australia the numbers increased by 12 percent in the first six months of the pandemic putting enormous strain on facilities that were already operating close to capacity.

The Australian Border Force has responded to these concerns by confirming that all immigration detainees have full access to medical professionals and the same range of health care services as Australian citizens. “The priority for the Australian Border Force is the health and safety of detainees and staff in immigration detention facilities,” a spokesperson from Australian Border Force said. “To date, no detainee has tested positive to COVID-19.“


06 July 2021

Australian Human Rights Commission, “Management of COVID-19 Risks in Immigration Detention,” 16 June 2021, https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/asylum-seekers-and-refugees/publications/management-covid-19-risks-immigration-detention
Australian Human Rights Commission, “Management of COVID-19 Risks in Immigration Detention,” 16 June 2021, https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/asylum-seekers-and-refugees/publications/management-covid-19-risks-immigration-detention

As COVID-19 cases rise again in areas of Australia - including New South Wales - prompting fresh lockdowns, a new report from the Australian Human Rights Commission has highlighted the serious risks that COVID-19 poses to people in the country’s immigration detention network. Although no immigration detainees have, to-date, tested positive in the country (although several staff members have contracted the virus), the commission urged Australian authorities to adopt various measures to better protect detainees.

Following a review of the collective response to the human rights risks posed by the COVID-19 pandemic in the context of immigration detention, the commission identified three key areas of concern: detainee population size, difficulties in physical distancing, and restriction of individuals’ rights. At the same time however, it commended several areas, including the government’s indication that the COVID-19 vaccine will be available for immigration detainees.

With regards to the detainee population, the commission criticises the fact that unlike other countries that released immigration detainees at the start of the crisis, Australia instead increased its immigration detainee population during the first year of the pandemic (from 1,373 in March 2020 to 1,527 in February 2021). The commission notes, “This population increase has contributed to capacity pressures throughout Australia’s network of immigration detention facilities and increased the concentration of detainees in compounds at various times throughout 2020.” The commission thus encouraged Australia to follow expert health advice and release people who present a low security risk into community-based alternatives to detention.

Although it recognises the government’s attempts to provide capacity relief by re-opening North West Point Immigration Detention Centre on Christmas Island, the commission argues that the centre is ill-equipped to respond to a COVID outbreak--due to the island’s isolation, and its lack of sophisticated health care facilities. (The facility’s inadequate health care provision was highlighted recently, in the case of the Murugappan family--a young family of four detained on the island since 2019--whose youngest child was transferred to Perth for emergency medical care after being hospitalised with a suspected blood infection.) As such, the commission writes: “As a matter of urgency, the Australian Government should decommission the use of all immigration detention facilities on Christmas Island, and implement more appropriate solutions to reduce the number of people in closed immigration detention.”

The commission also noted the need for authorities to improve detainees’ ability to socially distance, highlighting the fact that people often have less than the recommended four square metres of personal space, and that detainees are often required to sleep in bunk beds in shared rooms. The commission thus urged the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) and the Australian Border Force to limit bedroom occupancy levels to ensure distancing of 1.5 metres between persons at all times, the partition of sanitary facilities from living and sleeping spaces, and the provision of at least four square metres per person in multi-occupancy rooms.

Finally, the commission has urged authorities to ensure that measures restricting individuals’ rights--such as freedom of movement--are reasonable, necessary, and proportionate to addressing COVID-19 risks. For example, the commission points to the conditions in which individuals are held when quarantining, highlighting that centres have tended to use their “high care” accommodation units, which are usually used as isolation areas for behavioural management. “Bedrooms in these units are sparse, with hard, fixed furniture, and contain a toilet and shower, with some separated by partitions (but not doors). They have limited natural light, and any windows are tinted so there is no view outside, and they cannot be opened. Bedrooms are generally monitored using closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras, but the Commission does not know if the CCTV is used when a person is in quarantine.”

On 28 May 2021, the commission received a formal response from the DHA to the report’s 20 recommendations. While it agreed to six of these recommendations and agreed in part with two, it noted seven and disagreed with five (including the recommendations that detention centres not exceed their operational capacity and that “high care” accommodation units cease being used for quarantine).


22 January 2021

A. MC, “Medically Vulnerable Refugees in Australia Hotels Finally Freed,” Al Jazeera, 22 January 2021, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/1/22/medically-vulnerable-refugees-in-australia-hotels-finally-freed
A. MC, “Medically Vulnerable Refugees in Australia Hotels Finally Freed,” Al Jazeera, 22 January 2021, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/1/22/medically-vulnerable-refugees-in-australia-hotels-finally-freed

After more than a year of detention inside Melbourne hotels, 65 medically vulnerable male asylum seekers have been released. Previously confined in offshore detention facilities, the men were transferred to mainland Australia in 2019 under the now-repealed Medevac laws, so that they could receive urgent medical treatment. Since their arrival however, they have been held in hotels, including the Park Hotel and the Mantra Hotel, where they have been denied sufficient access to open space or appropriate food, subjected to “prison-like conditions” and “mental torture,” confined in rooms without adequate ventilation, and potentially exposed to COVID-19. In July 2020 a staff member working at the Mantra Hotel tested positive for the virus.

One of the detainees said of his release in a tweet: “This is the most beautiful moment of my life and one that I would like to share with you all. After 2,737 days locked up in detention – I am free. Thank you to all of the amazing people who helped me to stay strong. #GameOver.”

According to the Home Affairs Ministry, which justified the releases on a purely financial basis, all those released were granted “final departure bridging visas” which allow “individuals to temporarily reside in the Australian community while they finalise their arrangements to leave Australia.” In a statement, the ministry said: “The individuals residing in the alternative places of detention were brought to Australia temporarily for medical treatment. They are encouraged to finalise their medical treatment so they can continue on their resettlement pathway to the United States, return to Nauru or PNG or return to their home country.”

On 5 January, detainees held in the Christmas Island Detention Centre--which was reopened in August 2020 allegedly due to the pandemic’s impact upon the government’s ability to remove asylum seekers--initiated riots in protest of their detention conditions. According to one detainee who spoke to the Guardian, the facility’s management had denied detainees the opportunity to hold a peaceful protest--prompting some to react violently and set two of the compounds alight. Reportedly, detainees had been in lockdown for 22 hours a day and were denied access to workable wifi, leading to many struggling with both their physical and mental health. Describing the conditions in the facility, one refugee said, “It’s worse than jail. In jail, you know when you can go home, in detention they don’t have a timeframe for you to go home. You wait around, and you don’t know what’s happening.” Additional disturbances were also reported on 10 January.


01 July 2020

"Detainees in immigration detention centre fear they will get coronavirus," AAP, 27 March 2020, (https://www.sbs.com.au/news/home-affairs-rejects-calls-to-release-immigration-detainees-fearful-of-coronavirus)

Despite recommendations from infectious disease experts, medical professionals, civil society, and international human rights observers to reduce detainee populations (see 26 April update), the numbers of non-nationals detained in Australia have increased during the pandemic. This is according to the country’s Commonwealth Ombudsman, Michael Manthorpe, who warned, “There is a risk that upward pressure on numbers in detention will continue in the medium term. This will make adherence to CDNA Guidelines harder and increase the risk should COVID-19 virus occur in one of the facilities. … It has become apparent in other residential settings that just one mishap can lead to a serious outbreak in facilities where large numbers of people are housed in close proximity to one another. For example, a person without symptoms could innocently bring the virus into a facility without their knowledge. … All this being so, we consider that it would be highly desirable for fewer people to be held in immigration detention.”

This assessment followed the completion of the Ombudsman’s investigation into the management of Covid-19 risks in Australia’s immigration detention estate. Aside from the rising numbers of persons in detention, he noted - amongst other points - that although screening was generally in place in most facilities, in several centres there was no oversight of persons exiting the premises. The Ombudsman also flagged the failure to implement compound separation in at least one facility - a failure which resulted in detainees from different compounds using the same communal facilities at the same time.

Some positive points, however, were also noted. These included the fact that facility staff had clearly messaged to detainees that they are able to access personal effects and entertainment during periods of medical isolation - an important policy to help alleviate any reluctance amongst detainees to self-report, given fears of isolation during testing.

This investigation was prompted by a complaint lodged by the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) in May on behalf of 14 men held in onshore detention facilities. The men were unable to follow public health advice and practice social distancing in overcrowded detention centres, and their complaint called for an urgent inspection of detention sites in order to assess the adequacy of detention conditions during the crisis.

What this investigation did not refer to, however, was the country’s proposed new law that will see mobile phones banned in onshore detention facilities. According to Australia’s Immigration Minister, who described mobiles as an “unacceptable risk,” this ban is necessary to stop the spread of drugs and contraband items in detention centres. Civil society and NGOs have challenged the proposed policy, arguing that phones are a “lifeline” for detainees - particularly due to their role in helping to support persons’ mental health and wellbeing. With visits suspended during the Covid-19 crisis, mobile phones have played an even greater role for many detainees in the past few months, helping to prevent acute isolation.


26 April 2020

Refugees Queue for Food in Brisbane, (Hakeem Kakar,
Refugees Queue for Food in Brisbane, (Hakeem Kakar, "This is not Self-Isolation: Manus Island Refugees Call for Release," RNZ, 31 March 2020, https://www.rnz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/412987/this-is-not-self-isolation-manus-island-refugees-call-for-release)

Despite growing calls from a broad range of actors - including civil society, medical professionals, infectious disease experts, Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner, and detainees themselves--the Australian government had still not taken steps to release vulnerable detainees as of late April. The government has acknowledged that those in correctional and detention settings are most at risk. However, immigration detention measures continue to be imposed even as some refugees previously detained on Manus Islands and Nauru are now detained in Australian hotels.

Protests are reportedly taking place almost daily in detention facilities. One Afghan refugee held in a Melbourne hotel was quoted as saying, “We should be free, we should be released in the community for self-isolation. This is not self-isolation. They are closing the clubs, the bars, the pubs, the gyms, everything … but what about here? We are like some kind of animals?”

On 22 April, a chronically ill refugee held in Australian immigration detention launched a case in the high court seeking his release into the community in a bid to protect him from the virus. Represented by lawyers from Australia’s Human Rights Law Centre, the individual is challenging his detention on the grounds that the Australian government is breaching its duty of care by failing to establish conditions that would allow him to comply with public health guidelines on social distancing. Reportedly, this is the first of “many” cases that may be brought forward.


02 April 2020

"Detainees in immigration detention centre fear they will get coronavirus," AAP, 27 March 2020, (https://www.sbs.com.au/news/home-affairs-rejects-calls-to-release-immigration-detainees-fearful-of-coronavirus)

1,100 Australian healthcare professionals have co-signed a letter to the Home Affairs Minister, Peter Dutton, calling for all refugees and asylum seekers to immediately be released from immigration detention. “Failure to take action to release people seeking asylum and refugees from detention will not only put them at greater risk of infection and possibly death," it stated. "It also risks placing a greater burden on wider Australian society and the health care system."


29 March 2020

"Detainees in immigration detention centre fear they will get coronavirus," AAP, 27 March 2020, (https://www.sbs.com.au/news/home-affairs-rejects-calls-to-release-immigration-detainees-fearful-of-coronavirus)

Numerous civil society organisations have issued calls for the release of immigration detainees in Australia, which took on new urgency after a private security guard at an ad hoc detention centre in a hotel in Brisbane tested positive for Covid-19 in mid-March.

On 23 March, asylum seekers in detention across Australia wrote an open letter to the prime minister pleading for their release into the community. The detainees wrote: “It is only a matter of time before it will breach our closed environment … we are sitting ducks for Covid-19 and are extremely exposed to becoming severely ill, with the possibility of death.” A Jordanian refugee detained in Villawood detention centre in Sydney reported that the crowded detention centre made it impossible to keep four square meters apart from one another and that there was a lack of soap and hand sanitiser available to detainees. Another detainee said the situation was similar at the Kangaroo Point Hotel in Brisbane. Although a guard at the hotel tested positive for Covid-19, none of the detainees were tested and the Australian border force told detainees that they “don’t have kits to test everyone.”

On 27 March 2020, the Home Affairs Department rejected calls to release detainees, claiming: “Infection control plans are in place and plans to manage suspected cases of COVID-19 have been developed and tested. Detainees displaying any COVID-19 symptoms may be quarantined and tested in line with advice from health officials and in accordance with the broader Commonwealth response.”


Last updated: February 2022

Immigration Detention in Australia: Turning Arbitrary Detention into a Global Brand

  • Read Full Report 
  • Key Findings
  • Introduction  
  • Laws, Policies, Practices
  • Detention Infrastructure

 

KEY FINDINGS

  • Australia is one of the few countries in the world with a blanket policy of mandatory, indefinite detention of everyone without a visa, including children and asylum seekers.
  • Human rights agencies have repeatedly found Australia’s detention system to be arbitrary, discriminatory, and in violation of international law.
  • As of January 2022, Australia had failed to establish a National Preventive Mechanism—a critical detention monitoring body—in each of its territories as required by the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture, which it ratified in 2017.
  • People languish in detention for years: The average length of detention is nearly 700 days and dozens have been detained for more than five years.
  • Thousands of children have been subject to prolonged detention, resulting in severe physical and mental harm.
  • Detention is very expensive: It costs nearly $400,000 per detainee per year compared to less than $50,000 for housing a person in the community.
  • Unlike other countries who released immigration detainees into the community at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Australia increased its detainee population during the first year of the pandemic.
  • The country ceased its overseas detention operations in Papua New Guinea but it maintains an offshore processing in Nauru. It also re-opened the detention facility on Christmas Island after the the emergence of COVID-19 even though the Australian Human Rights Commission said it was not suitable for confiing people during a pandemic.
  • Independent observers faced barriers gaining access to Nauru and Manus Island and Australia has been persistently criticised for the lack of transparency surrounding its offshore processing operations.
  • Monitors have repeatedly criticised the appalling conditions in Australia’s detention facilities, including overcrowding and lack of communal and outdoor spaces, the remote location of many detention centres, and the extreme isolation of detainees, who are prevented from using mobile phones.
  • Prolonged detention has catastrophic impacts on the physical and mental health of detainees, leading to high rates of self-harm, depression, anxiety, and psychological disorders.
  • Detainees in offshore detention facilities must wait years to be transported to Australia for medical treatment, but a 2019 “Medevac Bill” that allowed for such transfers was quickly repealed.

 

1.    INTRODUCTION

Australia’s migration-related detention system is uniquely severe, arbitrary, and punitive. And that is precisely the message that Australia’s political establishment—with significant public support—appears committed to communicating to the rest of the world.[1] Deplorable and abusive immigration detention conditions and practices abound in many countries in the world; Australia, however, brings together a range of extreme policies in its detention regime, provides them blanket legal cover, aggressively defends them in the face of growing international opprobrium, and spreads them to countries near and far.[2]

Key features of the Australian migration system are its policy of mandatory indefinite detention of undocumented non-citizens, offshore processing of asylum seekers, the inclusion of children in mandatory detention, and extreme lengths of detention (as of 2021 the average length of detention was nearly 700 days and at least 50 people had been in detention for more than eight years).[3] National and international experts, judicial bodies, and human rights advocates have repeatedly denounced these policies as violating fundamental human rights as well as the country’s international legal obligations.[4] Nevertheless, some countries have sought to emulate these polices, most notably in Europe, where Denmark, the United Kingdom, and others have proposed schemes that are similar to Australia’s notorious “Pacific Solution.”

Whereas many migrant detaining countries employ complex and sometimes misleading laws, terminology, and regulations to frame their migration detention systems, Australian law and policy can be blatantly clear in comparison. Thus, for example, although countries in Europe generally provide a broad set of legal norms to define and ground differing migration-related detention measures, Australia’s detention laws seem banal and stark: all non-citizens unlawfully in Australia are mandatorily and indefinitely detained until granted a visa or removed.

Another remarkable quality of Australia’s system, which figured prominently in the media hype surrounding the decision in January 2022 to revoke the visa of renown professional tennis player Novak Djokovic, is the extraordinary (“God-like”) power of the immigration minister. Under the Migration Act, the minister has the sole authority and discretion to grant a person a visa and thus enable their release from detention, if the minister thinks it is “in the public interest” to do so. This ministerial power is not subject to the same rules as provided elsewhere in the Migration Act, nor is it necessary for the minister to provide information to Parliament explaining the use of this power. According to the Refugee Council of Australia, “the effect of this is to give the Minister virtually complete discretion in deciding whether to release a person from detention.”[5]

The legal foundation of Australia's immigration detention regime—the 1958 Migration Act—has been amended on multiple occasions. The government's responses to changing conditions—including increases in Indo-Chinese arrivals in the 1980s and the onset of refugee flows from Middle Eastern countries in the 1990s—have invariably led to further tightening of restrictions. This has included the adoption of amendments that limit the ability of detainees to enjoy basic human rights and circumvent Australia’s international obligations. A case in point is a provision designating certain Australian islands as “excised” territories in order to prevent asylum seekers detained on them from accessing legal procedures and safeguards.

The severe impact of Australia’s detention practices on the health and well-being of migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers has been well documented. The Australian Human Rights Commission has repeatedly expressed serious concerns about the mental health impacts on immigration detainees who are held for prolonged periods in remote immigration detention sites as well as the negative effects of limiting detainees’ ability to have easily accessible communication with family, friends, legal representatives, and others.[6] Commenting on these problems, the Human Rights Commissioner said: “That people are detained for so long in Australia’s immigration detention system is not the necessary consequence of irregular migration, which affects many parts of the world. People are detained for long periods in Australia’s immigration detention network because of Australia’s current legal and policy framework. … As a liberal democracy, Australia takes its human rights obligations seriously. This means we should confront a difficult truth: we can and we must do better to protect the human rights of people subject to immigration detention.”[7]

Given the high cost—roughly 360,000 AUS per person per year in a detention centre versus 47,000 for housing in the community[8]—and severity of Australia’s migration detention system, it would seem that the country is facing extraordinary migration pressures. And yet, this is far from the case. In reality, Australia receives among the lowest number of asylum seekers and irregular migrants in the world, primarily due to its geographic isolation. In 2021, for example more than 190,000 asylum applications were lodged in Germany,[9] 87,000 in France, 67,400 in Spain, and 37,500 in the UK.[10] By comparison, roughly 11,000 people arriving by plane made asylum applications in Australia the same year.[11]

Numerous UN human rights officials have condemned Australia’s policies of mandatory and indefinite detention and the racist narratives that appear to underpin them. Visiting Australia in 2011, then UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay declared that mandatory, arbitrary detention had "for many years cast a shadow over Australia's human rights record.”[12]

Both Pillay and the current UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, who visited Australia in 2019, raised concerns about racism. “There is a racial discriminatory element here which I see as rather inhumane treatment of people, judged by their differences: racial, colour or religions,” said South African-born Pillay in 2011[13]; Bachelet argued that “the public narrative in Australia surrounding migration and asylum … has become weaponised by misinformation and discriminatory and even racist attitudes, including with respect to Islam.”[14] Urging greater compassion and respect for the human rights of migrants and refugees in Australia—itself a country of migrants—Bachelet stressed: “Desperate human beings seeking safety and dignity are victims, not criminals; they are people just like us—tired and in need. And they are moving—many of them—because they have no other choice.”[15]

  

2.    LAWS, POLICIES, PRACTICES 

2.1 Key Norms 

The main piece of legislation relating to immigration detention in Australia is the 1958 Migration Act.[16] Detention powers are also provided in the Maritime Powers Act (2013)[17] and the Australian Border Force Act (2015).[18]

Migration Act and amendments. Under Sections 189, 196, and 198 of the Migration Act, all non-citizens who are unlawfully present on Australian territory, whether on the mainland or an “excised offshore place,” must be held in immigration detention until they are granted a visa or removed from Australia. The laws on detention apply to any person who arrives in Australia without a valid visa (unauthorised arrivals), including asylum seekers, and to those who arrived with a visa, but subsequently became unauthorised because their visa expired or was cancelled (authorised arrivals).[19] The law makes no distinction between adults and children.[20] Under the Migration Act, detention measures are mandatory and indefinite, to be enforced until the person is removed from the country or granted a visa.[21]

The Migration Act has been amended repeatedly in response to evolving migration contexts. In the 1970s and 1980s, the Indo-Chinese refugee crisis resulted in maritime arrivals of Vietnamese and Cambodian refugees fleeing the aftermath of the Vietnam War.[22] While initially the Vietnamese were welcomed in Australia, attitudes started to harden as more boats of Cambodian refugees arrived between 1989 and 1994, leading to the adoption of the 1989 Migration Legislation Amendment Act.[23] This introduced changes to the system of processing boat arrivals and allowed officers to arrest and detain anyone suspected of being an “illegal entrant.” Although detention was still discretionary and not mandatory until 1992, the changes made in 1989 effectively introduced a policy of “administrative detention” for all people entering Australia without a valid visa, or any others present in the country unlawfully (i.e. without a valid visa), while their immigration status was resolved.[24]

Subsequent amendments to the 1958 Migration Act have resulted in the emergence of a legal framework providing for mandatory, indefinite detention of all “unlawful non-citizens.” In 1992, the Migration Amendment Act was passed introducing mandatory detention as a temporary and exceptional measure to deal with a particular group of “designated persons,” the unauthorised Indochinese boat arrivals.[25] A 273-day limit on detention was introduced under the 1992 Migration Amendment Act. However, mandatory detention was subsequently extended to all “unlawful non-citizens” with the enactment of the Migration Reform Act 1992 (which came into effect on 1 September 1994).[26] Under this act a new visa system distinguished between “lawful” and “unlawful” non-citizens and the 273-day detention limit was removed. The 1992 Migration Reform Act also introduced detention charges, whereby an unlawful non-citizen was liable for the costs of their immigration detention.[27] Under the 1992 Reform Act, those asylum seekers who had entered the country lawfully (“authorised arrivals”), generally those who had arrived by air and on valid visas, could apply for a bridging visa, be released from detention, and stay in the community while their claims were assessed. Conversely, “unlawful non-citizens” or “unauthorised arrivals,” including unauthorised boat arrivals, were mandatorily detained without the opportunity to apply for bridging visas until they could be removed from Australia, or their claims had been assessed and security and health checks carried out.[28]

Australia’s legal detention regime changed again following the arrival by boat of 9,500 asylum seekers between 1999 and 2001, most of whom were from Middle Eastern countries. The government responded by introducing a series of measures intended both to discourage unauthorised boat arrivals and reduce the number of people in detention. In October 1999, the Government introduced Temporary Protection Visas (TPVs) which enabled the release into the community on a temporary basis of many detainees who had been granted refugee status.[29]

An event known as the “Tampa Affair,” which occurred in August 2001, prompted another major shift in legislation. On 24 August 2001, 433 mainly Hazara Afghan asylum seekers en-route to Australia were rescued from their sinking boat by a Norwegian freight ship, the MV Tampa. Australian authorities refused to allow the Tampa entry into Australian territorial waters, after the asylum seekers begged its Captain not to land them in Indonesia, leading to an international standoff. On 29 August, the Captain of the Tampa entered Australian waters and was interdicted by the Australian Special Air Service (SAS). The asylum seekers were eventually escorted to the Pacific Island of Nauru, from where 131 of them were sent to New Zealand and the remaining 302 were processed on Nauru.[30] This was the first time that Australian forces had intercepted a boat carrying refugees.[31]

The event led to the prompt introduction of a series of new laws in September 2001 which became known as the “Pacific Solution.” These consisted of the Amendment (Excision from Migration Zone) Bill 2001 and the Migration Amendment (Excision from Migration Zone) (Consequential Provisions) Bill 2001. Under these new laws, several Australian offshore islands (Christmas Island, Ashmore and Cartier Islands, and the Cocos) were excised from Australia’s migration zone.[32] In practice this meant that “unauthorised” non-citizens arriving at one of these islands without a valid visa were unable to make a valid application for a visa to enter Australia and instead were transferred to offshore processing centres set up on Nauru and Manus Island in Papua New Guinea where they were required to stay until their asylum claims had been processed.[33] A total of 1,637 people were detained on Nauru and Manus islands between 2001 and February 2008, when the Pacific Solution was formally ended, of whom 70 per cent were found to be refugees and were resettled in either Australia or another country (such as New Zealand, the USA, Sweden, and Canada).[34] Offshore processing and detention of asylum seekers was resumed in 2012 when the 2008 decision to end it was overturned.

In a further change to the Migration Act, Parliament passed the Migration Amendment (Abolishing Detention Debt) Bill 2009 in September 2009, [35] removing the requirement for detainees to pay the cost of their own detention (introduced in 1992) and cancelling all immigration detention debts.[36]

In July 2011, in response to increasing unrest in immigration detention centres, amendments to the Migration Act were passed to toughen the character test under Section 180A of the Migration (Offences and Undesirable Persons) Amendment Act 1992.[37] Under Section 180A, the minister had powers to refuse a visa or cancel an existing visa of a person if they were deemed likely to engage in criminal activity, to vilify a segment of the Australian community, to incite discord in the Australian community, or represent a danger to the Australian community through potential involvement in activities that were violent or disruptive. Section 501 of the Migration Amendment (Strengthening the Character Test and Other Provisions) Bill 2011 extended this penalty to any person who was convicted of a criminal offence while they were in detention, or while escaping from immigration detention.[38]

In 2013, the Migration Amendment (Unauthorised Maritime Arrivals and Other Measures) Act 2013 was introduced to ensure that no “unauthorised maritime arrivals” would be able to apply for a protection visa in Australia and they would all be sent to “regional processing countries” for the processing of their refugee claims.[39] The intention was to remove the difference in legal status between those individuals arriving at “excised offshore places” (created after the Tampa affair) and those arriving elsewhere in Australia, in effect excising the whole of the country for “unauthorised maritime arrivals.”[40]

In 2014, the Australian Government again amended the 1958 Migration Act with the introduction of the Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment (Resolving the Asylum Legacy Caseload) Act 2014, with significant impacts on the human rights of refugees and asylum seekers.[41] Under this act, the Minister for Immigration was given new powers to detain people at sea (both within Australian waters and on the high seas) and to transfer them to any country, or a vessel of another country, even without that country’s consent.[42] These powers could be exercised without any consideration of Australia’s non-refoulement obligations, the law of the sea, or any other international obligations; nor were they subject to judicial review or to publication under the Legislative Instruments Act 2003, so they did not have to be made public or face parliamentary scrutiny. According to the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA), these powers “would allow the Minister to hold people seeking asylum in arbitrary, indefinite, and potentially incommunicado detention at sea and forcibly transfer them to countries where they could face persecution and other forms of serious harm, without any scrutiny by the public, courts, or Australian Parliament.”[43]

As well as removing Australia’s non-refoulement obligations with respect to the mandatory removal of non-citizens without valid visas, the 2014 Act also removed most references to the 1951 Refugee Convention and replaced them with Australia’s own redefined criteria for granting refugee status.[44] Most notable amongst these was a requirement that people seeking asylum have exhausted all possible options for protection in their own country, including moving internally to other parts of their own country (“internal relocation”); that “effective protection” in a person’s own country can be provided by the government or a non-governmental body; that a person has taken reasonable steps to “modify their behaviour” so as to avoid persecution; and a redefinition of membership of the category “social group” under the Refugee Convention.[45]

Another impact of the 2014 Act was on the status of children born to parents who came to Australia as asylum seekers by boat and were considered as “transitory persons” and “unauthorised maritime arrivals” and subject to the same offshore processing and denial of access to permanent protection in Australia as their parents. The provisions also applied retroactively to children born before the 2014 Act came into effect.[46]

The Migration Amendment (Character and General Visa Cancellation) Act 2014 came into effect in December 2014.[47] This act significantly broadened the grounds for failing a “character test” under Section 501 of the Migration Amendment.[48] As a result, there was a substantial increase in the number of visa refusals and cancellations and consequently the number of people being held in immigration detention.[49]

A further amendment to the 1958 Migration Act, the Migration Amendment (Urgent Medical Treatment) Bill (commonly known as the “Medevac Bill”) came into effect in February 2019. Under this piece of legislation, asylum seekers and their families could be temporarily transferred to Australia from Manus Island or Nauru for medical treatment, if they were assessed by two or more treating doctors; and all children and their families could be temporarily transferred from offshore detention to Australia for the purpose of medical or psychiatric assessment.[50] The Medevac Bill was repealed by the Australian Parliament in December 2019.[51]

The most recent amendment to the Migration Act, the Migration Amendment (Clarifying International Obligations for Removal) Regulations 2021, was passed in May 2021.[52] Under this amendment, a refugee who has had their visa cancelled for reasons of security, character, criminal convictions, or “association with a group” suspected by the Minister of wrongdoing, but who cannot be returned because they could face persecution in their country of origin, can be held indefinitely in detention.[53]

The Australian Government justified the new legislation saying that it strengthened Australia’s protections against refoulement.[54] However, human rights and refugee law groups argued that it reinforced policies of indefinite detention in Australia[55] and the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights raised serious concerns that the law “may also have implications for Australia’s obligation not to subject any person to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”[56] In unchallengeable new powers, the legislation also allows the minister to withdraw a person’s refugee status if they believe they can be returned to the country from which they fled. Advocates argued that this was an unjustifiable abuse of minister’s powers to unilaterally remove protection that had been legally provided to refugees.[57]

In February 2021, a private member’s bill, the Ending Indefinite and Arbitrary Immigration Bill, was introduced to Parliament proposing a fundamental reform of Australia’s immigration detention system.[58] Although the bill was removed from the Notice Paper in October 2021 (meaning it would not be debated in Parliament), it was referred for consideration to the Joint Standing Committee on Migration.  Several advocacy organisations used this opportunity to make submissions supporting the passage of the bill and calling for the complete overhaul of Australia’s arbitrary and indefinite immigration detention system.[59]

Australian Border Force Act. Another separate, but related piece of legislation, the Australian Border Force Act 2015, has important implications for immigration detention as it makes it a crime for an “entrusted person” to make record of or disclose protected information with a punishment of up to two years’ imprisonment. Although a High Court challenge to the legislation in 2016 excluded health care professionals from these provisions, they still applied to anyone engaged or employed by the Department of Immigration, including social workers, educators, and others contracted by the Department to work in immigration detention sites.[60]

Maritime Powers Act. Section 72 of the Maritime Powers Act (2013) provides apprehension, detention, and return powers to maritime officers involved in interdicting vessels at sea. Like the Migration Act, the Maritime Powers Act has been amended several times, including notably in 2014, when both the Maritime Powers Act and the Migration Act were amended to, inter alia: broaden maritime detention and removal powers; and limit judicial review of the application of these powers. [61]

 

2.2 Grounds for Detention

In most major migrant detaining countries, grounds for detention are carefully enumerated and explained in law and policy, which often provide varying detention powers and lengths of detention depending on an individual’s specific situation. The applicability of detention measures is typically circumscribed by requirements to assess the necessity and proportionality of each individual detention decision, to provide for judicial interventions, and to enable detainees to challenge the legality of their detention.

This is not the case in Australia. As detailed in the previous section (“Section 2.1 Key Norms”), Australia’s legal framework for migration-related detention is stark in its scope and application: Under sections 189, 196, and 198 of the Migration Act, all non-citizens—including asylum seekers—unlawfully in Australia, without a valid visa, must be detained and kept in detention until granted a visa or removed from the country.

While various adjustments and amendments have been made to this detention regime, the core rationales for migration-related detention have largely remained consistent for years: Mandatory, indefinite detention is a blanket measure for ensuring that:

  • unauthorised arrivals do not enter the Australian community until their identity and status have been properly assessed and they have been granted a visa; 
  • unauthorised arrivals are available during processing of any visa applications and, if applications are unsuccessful, that they are available for removal from Australia; and
  • unauthorised arrivals are immediately available for health checks, which are a requirement for the grant of a visa.[62]

Notwithstanding these official rationales, an important unofficial—though frequently admitted—“driving principle” behind Australia’s immigration control regime is deterrence, particularly its offshore processing policies. And while successive political leaders have remained under the thrall of the deterrence idea, many observers have argued that the model has not lived up to its billing, especially when one takes into account the tremendous human toll it has taken on the lives of thousands of people.[63]

Numerous experts have concluded that Australia’s migration-related detention practices are fundamentally arbitrary in nature. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, for instance, adopted 17 “opinions” between 2002-2021 on immigration detention cases in Australia, each of which concluded that the detention measure in question had been arbitrary.[64]

Numerous other international monitors and judicial authorities have repeatedly found Australia’s detention powers to be fundamentally arbitrary in nature and application.[65] (For more on the assessments of these bodies, see below “Section 2.13 International Monitoring.”)

 

2.3 Criminalisation

Section 4A of the Migration Act states that Chapter 2 of the Criminal Code, which sets out the general principles of criminal responsibility, applies to all “offences” against the Migration Act. Importantly, however, these offences do not include strictly status-related violations, but rather fraud and smuggling, among other infractions.

Although asylum seekers who enter Australia without a valid visa are called “unlawful” non-citizens, it is not a criminal act per se to enter Australia for the purposes of seeking asylum without a valid visa. Asylum seekers who arrive without a visa are detained for identity, security, and health checks and to prevent absconding while their legal status is resolved, rather than as a punishment for breaking the law.[66]

Although Australia does not provide criminal sanctions for status-related violations, many aspects of the country’s migration-related detention regime have been characterised as severe exemplars of the “criminalisation” of asylum and irregular migration. Conditions in immigration detention centres are harsh and have repeatedly been criticised for their carceral characteristics and allegations of inappropriate use of force against detainees. Additionally, Australia’s mandatory, unlimited detention regime, as well as its offshore processing policies, appear to serve as ad hoc, unacknowledged forms of punishment.[67]

 

2.4 Asylum Seekers

Australia is a party to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, Article 31 of which provides that states should not “impose penalties” on people seeking refuge “on account of their illegal entry or presence.” Despite this fact, Australia imposes mandatory, indefinite detention measures on everyone who arrives without a valid visa, including asylum seekers, and maintains a regime of offshore processing for asylum seekers interdicted at sea.[68]

Many commentators have argued that asylum seekers arriving by boat (known as “unauthorised boat arrivals”) have been disproportionately affected by Australia’s mandatory detention policy.[69] As of 30 September 2021, a total of 1,459 persons were in immigration detention in Australia.[70] Of these, 291 were “illegal arrivals” who had arrived by air (15 persons) or by boat (278 persons) (19.9 percent of all detainees) and 1,168 persons (80.1 percent of all detainees) were visa overstayers or people whose visas had been cancelled.[71]

According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, mandatory detention of asylum seekers in Australia goes “well beyond the period of time it takes to gather basic information about an asylum claim, health, identity, or security issues” and results in asylum seekers, including children, being detained for months, or increasingly years, with no time limit on detention and only very limited opportunities for legal review.[72] In effect, under Australian law an asylum seeker can be detained for life. As of 31 August 2021, of the 1,440 people in detention, approximately 50 people had been in detention for more than eight years, some of whom had already spent 10 years or more behind bars.[73]

As well as being mandatory, indefinite, and unreviewable, the detention of asylum seekers in Australia has been declared arbitrary by important domestic and international monitoring bodies.[74] As noted earlier (see “Section 2.2 Grounds for Detention,”) the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) found 17 consecutive cases of immigration detention in Australia, investigated between 2002-2021, to be arbitrary, representing by far the WGAD’s largest migration-related detention case load for any single country.[75]

Most asylum seekers are accommodated in purpose-built detention facilities, but increasingly they are also detained in “alternative places of detention” (APODs), including buildings which are not purpose-built for detention, such as hotels. In its 2019 report on the “Inspection of Australia’s Immigration Detention Facilities,” the Australian Human Rights Commission drew attention to the increased use of hotels as alternative places of detention across the country and serious concerns about the inadequate living conditions in these locations, including very limited access to communal and outdoor spaces. Although asylum seekers are only meant to be held for short periods of time in APODs, many people have been detained in hotels for lengthy periods with serious impacts on their mental and physical health and wellbeing.[76]

Moreover, the remote location of many onshore and offshore detention centres leads to extreme isolation for asylum seekers and makes it much harder for them to access lawyers, health services, interpreters, and support networks.[77]

A report by the University of Melbourne in 2019 highlighted that the rate of self-harm among people seeking asylum was exceptionally high when compared to the general Australian population.[78] Amongst the asylum seeker group the highest rate of self-harm was observed in people in offshore and onshore detention and the lowest rate was among asylum seekers in community-based arrangements. The report found that the rate of self-harm among people seeking asylum (including those in onshore and offshore detention) was more than 200 times the Australian community hospital treated rate.[79]

In 2016, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) found that 88 percent of refugees and people seeking asylum on Manus Island were suffering from depression, anxiety, and/or post-traumatic stress disorder, which were “the highest recorded rates of any surveyed population.”[80] The UNHCR medical experts who visited the island in that year, stated that “the lengthy, arbitrary, and indefinite nature of immigration detention on Manus Island, together with hopelessness in the absence of durable settlement options, had corroded the resilience of the detainees, and made them vulnerable to mental illness.[81]

 

2.5 Children

Australia’s Migration Law provides for the detention of children. In the past, thousands of children have been detained by the country, but in recent years the number of detained minors has significantly decreased. According to statistics from the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), on 31 August 2021 there were no children in onshore or offshore Australian immigration detention facilities.[82] According to the DHA, 175 children were living in the community after being approved for a residence determination on 31 August 2021.[83]

Children who are detained have usually been held in Immigration Transit Accommodation (ITAs) and Alternative Places of Detention (APODs), both of which meet GDP’s criteria for detention sites (for more on these types of detention facilities, see “Section 3 Detention Infrastructure” below). In the past, children have also been detained in dedicated immigration detention centres (IDCs).[84]

Prior to 2005, the Migration Act did not differentiate between adults and children. But in July 2005, the Australian government declared that children would be detained in immigration only as a last resort, introducing legislative changes and a reform programme that improved the administrative processes and staff attitudes in relation to the detention of children.[85] Section 4AA of the Migration Amendment (Detention Arrangements) Act 2005 affirmed “as a principle that a minor shall only be detained as a measure of last resort” and allowed families with children in detention to be placed in the community under community detention arrangements.[86]

In July 2008, the then Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans, announced the New Directions in Detention policy, providing a set of seven key immigration detention values by which the Australian government would be guided.[87] Included in the seven values, was the principle that “children, including juvenile foreign fishers and, where possible, their families, will not be detained in an immigration detention centre.”[88]

In 2011, however, the Australian Human Rights Commission argued that the reforms introduced in 2005 and 2008 “had not been sufficiently robust to prevent the immigration detention of children.” While the commission acknowledged that children were no longer detained in IDCs, it noted that those children remaining in other detention facilities were indeed detained and asserted that: “They are not free to come and go from the facilities where they live.”[89] The commission also noted that “child asylum seekers continue to be subjected to mandatory immigration detention.”[90] It is worth noting too, that the number of detained children following the reforms actually increased, reaching a peak of 1,992 in July 2013.[91]

In a subsequent “National Inquiry into Children in Detention” in 2014, the Australian Human Rights Commission noted that the country’s mandatory and prolonged detention of children continued to violate the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and cause children significant physical and mental illness and developmental delays. In particular, the commission found that in the first half of 2014, 34 percent of detained children were assessed as having mental health disorders “at levels of seriousness that were comparable with children receiving outpatient mental health services in Australia,” and that between January 2013 and March 2014, 128 detained children engaged in self-harm or attempted suicide.[92] At the time of the 2014 inquiry, 800 children were being held in mandatory indefinite immigration detention by Australian authorities, including 186 children on Nauru and the average length of detention for children and their families was one year and two months. Over 167 babies were born in immigration detention in 2014.

Despite these inquiries and recommendations, however, the situation for children in immigration detention onshore and offshore did not greatly improve. In 2016, a cache of leaked files from Nauru—obtained and published by the Guardian newspaper—covering the period from May 2013 to October 2015, again highlighted a litany of abuses experienced by child detainees on Nauru. The files reportedly included seven reports of sexual assault against children, 59 reports of assault against children, 30 cases of self-harm involving children, and 159 reports of threatened self-harm amongst children.[93]

One recent case, which was widely criticised, again re-focused attention on Australia’s child detention policies. The Murugappan family—a Tamil couple from Sri Lanka with two young Australian-born daughters, also known as the “Biloela Family”—was arrested and detained in 2018, despite having lived in Biloela (central Queensland) for four years. Following a mid-air Federal Court injunction during an attempted deportation flight, the family were transferred to Christmas Island pending the outcome of their court appeal. Since then, the Biloela community has campaigned for their release, but authorities have insisted on their continued detention, despite the risks posed to the young children. In June 2021, the youngest daughter, three-year-old Tharnicaa, was transferred to Perth for emergency medical care after being hospitalised with a suspected blood infection. According to advocates, she was unwell for a week before authorities would provide hospital access.[94] Following this incident, the family was moved from Christmas Island to community detention in Perth while they await a decision on their ongoing legal cases. Community detention requires the family to live at a designated address, remain in Perth, and have restrictions on visitors.[95]

International observers have frequently challenged Australia’s child detention policies. In 2017, the UN Human Rights committee urged the country to ensure that children and unaccompanied minors “are not detained, except as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time, taking into account their best interests as a primary consideration with regard to the duration and conditions of detention and their special need for care.”[96] In 2019, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child urged Australia to amend the Migration Act to prohibit the detention of children, and noted that—even though no children remained in regional processing countries—authorities should enact legislation prohibiting the detention of children in such situations.[97]

 

2.6 Other Vulnerable Groups

Because immigration detention in Australia is mandatory for all unlawful non-citizens, there is no judicial review of decisions to detain, no consideration of necessity, reasonableness, or proportionality, and thus no review of a person’s needs and vulnerabilities. As a result, vulnerable groups—including children, the elderly, persons with disabilities, pregnant women, survivors of torture and trauma, and persons with specific physical and mental health condition—are detained in Australia. There are no regulations in place regarding the provision of healthcare, or other special arrangements for vulnerable groups in places of immigration detention, and no measures to reduce the length of detention for vulnerable persons and persons with disabilities.[98]

Under Section 195A of the 1958 Migration Act, the Minister for Home Affairs can exercise his or her personal, non-compellable, non-delegable, and non-reviewable powers to grant people in detention bridging visas while their immigration status is being resolved or move them to “community detention.”[99] According to the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA), community detention can be a better option for those with significant vulnerability as they are guaranteed a place of residence, a caseworker, and a small living allowance.[100]

In its submission to the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation of People with Disability in November 2021, the RCOA raised urgent concerns about conditions for vulnerable persons, including persons with disabilities and survivors of torture, in immigration detention.[101] The RCOA submission highlighted the very negative impacts of long-term detention on the physical and mental health and wellbeing of adults and children. They pointed out that long-term detention can exacerbate existing disability and increase the likelihood of developing disability, especially psychosocial disability, while in detention. Refugees and asylum seekers who have already suffered traumatic experiences in their home countries and during their journeys to seek protection are more vulnerable to developing mental health problems; indefinite detention, increased securitisation, and inadequate health care in detention facilities exacerbates mental health issues.[102] Moreover, health care experts have highlighted that effective treatment for survivors of torture and trauma is not possible while they are in detention. There is a notable increase in psychosocial disabilities, notably schizophrenia, amongst immigration detainees.[103]

Independent assessments of immigration detainee mental and physical health—particularly amongst those held offshore—have found huge numbers suffering from ill-health. In one 2019 review in which 581 detainees were assessed, 97 percent were found to be suffering from physical ill-health, and 91 percent were experiencing mental health problems.[104] Many have highlighted that such suffering was particularly compounded in offshore detention conditions, where observers repeatedly painted a picture of medical neglect, local hospitals ill-equipped to treat detainees, and spiralling rates of self-harm.

Until early 2019, sick detainees held in offshore detention facilities waited an average of two years before they were transferred to Australia for medical treatment—often due to lengthy court cases.[105] In February 2019, however, the Australian government amended the 1958 Migration Act through the Migration Amendment (Urgent Medical Treatment) Bill (commonly known as the “Medevac Bill”). This paved the way for refugees and asylum seekers detained in offshore facilities to be transferred to the mainland for medical treatment, upon the recommendation of two independent doctors and when necessary treatment was unavailable offshore.[106] Before being repealed in December 2019, some 192 people were transferred to Australia for medical treatment under the law.[107]

However, persons transferred for treatment in Australia were still considered to be detained and were not able to have their claims for protection processed during treatment unless they returned to Nauru or Papua New Guinea (PNG). The majority were placed in Alternative Places of Detention (APODs): according to the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), by 31 December 2019, 110 Medevac refugees and asylum seekers were held in hotels under close supervision.[108] In one description of a hotel APOD in Brisbane in June 2019, several refugees and asylum seekers describe conditions in which private Serco security guards permanently patrolled corridors; rooms “crawling with bed bugs,”; and “humiliating” invasive body searches before leaving the hotel for medical appointments.[109] Other reports have highlighted detainees’ lack of access to outdoor space and lack of appropriate food provision.[110]

Although some Medevac refugees and asylum seekers were released, many still remain in detention as of this writing. According to the DHA, which justified the releases on a purely financial basis, “all those released were granted final departure bridging visas which allowed “individuals to temporarily reside in the Australian community while they finalise their arrangements to leave Australia.”[111] In a statement, the ministry said: “The individuals residing in the alternative places of detention were brought to Australia temporarily for medical treatment. They are encouraged to finalise their medical treatment so they can continue on their resettlement pathway to the United States, return to Nauru or PNG, or return to their home country.”[112] As of 31 August 2021, there were 1,179 “transitory persons” in Australia, of which 619 were in immigration detention, including 39 held in immigration detention centres (IDCs) or immigration transit accommodation (ITAs) and 44 in APOD’s.[113]

 

2.7 Length of Detention

There is no maximum limit on the length of migration-related detention in Australia. According to Section 196 of the Migration Act, an unlawful non-citizen detained under Section 189 must be kept in immigration detention until he or she is removed or deported from Australia, taken to a regional processing country, or granted a visa. This policy has led to many people being kept in detention for extraordinarily long periods of time: As of mid-2021, there were approximately 50 people who had been in detention for more than eight years, some of whom had already spent 10 years or more behind bars.[114]

The lack of a legal cap on the duration of detention leads to excessive detention periods with the length of time increasing every year. In August 2012, the average number of days in closed detention was 79 days;[115] this rose to 412 days in August 2015,[116] 468 days in August 2018,[117] and 696 days by August 2021.[118] Out of 1,440 people in immigration detention on 31 August 2021, 935 had been in detention for up to 2 years (65 percent), 388 persons had been detained for between 2 and 5 years (26.9 percent), and 117 people for over 5 years (8.1 percent).[119]

 

2.8 Procedural Standards

Australia’s mandatory, indefinite detention regime offers little in the way of procedural standards and guarantees. The Migration Act specifically prohibits a court from releasing an unlawful non-citizen from detention until they receive a visa or are deported. Detention does not depend on individual circumstances, such as being a health or security risk, as it does in other countries.[120] A court can only review the lawfulness of detention by enquiring into whether a person holds a valid visa. According to the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA), “this effectively means that courts cannot independently review whether detention is justified.”[121]

For the Australian Human Rights Commission, a key concern with the mandatory detention system in Australia is that “the detention of an unlawful non-citizen is not based on an individual assessment that the person needs to be detained. It is an a priori rule which applies to an entire class of people, regardless of their circumstances, and is not subject to judicial review.”[122] Key procedural safeguards such as judicial review of detention decisions, vulnerability assessments, considerations of necessity and proportionality, or application of discretion, do not exist in Australia’s mandatory detention system.

The limited range of procedural guarantees provided in Articles 194–196 of the 1958 Migration Act mainly concern the provision of information to detainees and visa applications. These include, “as soon as reasonably practicable after an officer detains a person under section 189, the officer must ensure that the person is made aware of: the provisions of sections 195 and 196; and if a visa held by the person has been cancelled under section 137J—the provisions of section 137K.” Article 195 states that a detainee may apply for a visa “within two working days after the day on which section 194 was complied with in relation to his or her detention; or if he or she informs an officer in writing within those 2 working days of his or her intention to so apply—within the next 5 working days after those 2 working days.” The same article goes on, however, to state that “a detainee who does not apply for a visa within the time allowed by subsection (1) may not apply for a visa, other than a bridging visa or a protection visa, after that time.”

Article 196 prohibits “the release, even by a court, of an unlawful non-citizen from detention,” (other than for removal or deportation) “unless the non-citizen has been granted a visa.”

According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, under Australian law the necessity or proportionality of detention cannot be challenged and the question of whether detention is arbitrary, and therefore unlawful under international human rights law, cannot be separately adjudicated.[123] There have been several Australian High Court cases which have upheld the constitutional validity of laws which allow for indefinite immigration detention in Australia. These include the case of Al-Kateb v. Godwin in 2004 in which the High Court ruled that the indefinite detention of Al-Kateb, a stateless Palestinian born in Kuwait who could not be returned to either Kuwait or Gaza, was lawful and constitutionally valid. This decision effectively established that indefinite immigration detention is lawful in Australia.[124]

In a more recent case on 23 June 2021, in the case of Commonwealth of Australia v AJL20 [2021] HCA 21, the High Court overturned a Federal Court ruling (AJL20) and determined that the prolonged detention of a Syrian man whose application for a visa had been refused on character grounds but who could not be returned to Syria because it would be a breach of Australia’s non-refoulement obligations, was lawful under Section 197C of the Migration Act.[125] The Federal Court judge had ruled that the detention of the man was unlawful as it was no longer for the purposes set out in the act and ordered that he be released from detention. However, the High Court reversed this decision, ruling that because the unlawful non-citizen did not have the right to remain, or enter Australia, under the Migration Act, his detention to prevent entry was a function of the act. On that basis, the respondent could be detained until such time as the purpose of the detention could be fulfilled. Section 197C requires that unlawful non-citizens be removed as soon as “reasonably practicable.” The High Court considered that the notion of “reasonably practicable” did not place a time limit on detention, so long as it was in accordance with the object and purpose of the act.[126]

According to the advocacy group, the Refugee Action Collective, this decision further entrenched “indefinite detention as part of the Migration Act, and, in that respect, as part of Australian law.”[127] Furthermore, in response to the Federal Court decision in AJL20, the Australian government introduced the Migration Amendment (Clarifying International Obligations for Removal) Bill 2021 on March 25, 2021.[128] The bill modified Section 197C of the Migration Act to ensure that immigration detainees whose visas had been cancelled would not be removed to their country of origin if doing so would result in a breach of Australia’s non-refoulement obligations under international law. While the Government claimed that this provision upheld Australia’s non-refoulement obligations, human rights and refugee law groups argued that it reinforced policies of indefinite detention in Australia[129] and the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights raised serious concerns that the law “may also have implications for Australia’s obligation not to subject any person to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”[130]

Some jurisdictions in Australia, including Victoria and Canberra, have enacted human rights statutes that provide some guarantees that are applicable to everyone in the jurisdiction, including immigration detainees, although their application may be limited or rarely used.[131] Most recently, Queensland passed the Human Rights Act 2019, which went into effect in January 2020. Section 29 provides: “(1) Every person has the right to liberty and security. (2) A person must not be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention. (3) A person must not be deprived of the person’s liberty except on grounds, and in accordance with procedures, established by law. (4) A person who is arrested or detained must be informed at the time of arrest or detention of the reason for the arrest or detention and must be promptly informed about any proceedings to be brought against the person.”[132]

 

2.9 Non-Custodial Measures (“Alternatives to Detention”)

Because immigration detention measures are mandatory, there is no consideration of non-custodial “alternatives to detention” to test the necessity and proportionality of individual detention decisions. However, the law gives a discretional power to the immigration minister to provide people “bridging visas” that enable them to live in the community. The law also provides for a measure called “community detention” which, although not strictly detention, imposes severe restrictions on freedom of movement.[133]

In 2005, the Migration Act was amended to give the immigration minister the absolute discretionary power to provide “bridging visas” to immigration detainees, which enables them to be released into the community.[134] Bridging visas can be granted to people who arrive by boat, for example, who are designated as “illegal maritime arrivals” (IMAs). These allow individuals to live in the community while their applications are processed, and most people under such visas are permitted to work and study and have access to Medicare.[135] There are different types of bridging visas, but IMAs are generally provided with a bridging visa E. As of 31 August 2021, 11,630 IMAs were living in the community on such a visa.[136]

Separately, the immigration minister has the discretionary authority to make a “residence determination” that provides for “community detention.” When this measure is applied—mainly for cases of people who are vulnerable (such as families or unaccompanied minors)—people are still formally considered in “detention” as they do not have a visa but they are not in fact fully deprived of liberty. They are generally not under physical supervision, but they must live at a specified address and are subject to curfews and reporting duties, and they are not permitted to work.[137] As of 31 August 2021, 560 people were living in the community after being approved for residence determination.[138]

 

2.10 Detaining Authorities and Institutions

While the authority to detain people for migration reasons lies with the Australian Border Force (ABF), Australia’s migration-related detention centres are managed by a private company, Serco.

Under the 2015 Australian Border Force Act, Border Force Officers exercise their powers under the Migration Act and other relevant legislation, including the power to detain unlawful non-nationals. The ABF also manages safety and security within immigration detention facilities and operates as an independent agency under the Home Affairs Portfolio.[139] In addition, the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), which was established in 2017 and succeeded the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, is responsible for delivering immigration and customs border policy functions.[140]

Article 189 of the Migration Act provides the legal grounds for the detention of unlawful non-citizens, under which an “officer” may detain such persons. Under Article 5 of the same act, various “officers” are authorised to detain non-nationals including: “(a) an officer of the department [of Immigration and Citizenship], other than an officer specified by the Minister in writing…; or (b) a person who is an officer for the purposes of the Customs Act 1901, other than such an officer specified by the Minister in writing…; or (c) a person who is a protective service officer for the purposes of the Australian Federal Police Act 1979…; or (d) a member of the Australian Federal Police or of the police force of a State or an internal Territory; or (e) a member of the police force of an external Territory; or (f) a person who is authorised in writing by the Minister to be an officer for the purposes of this Act; or (g) any person who is included in a class of persons authorised in writing by the Minister to be officers for the purposes of this Act.”[141]

 

2.11 Regulation of Detention Conditions and Regimes

Australia has not codified immigration detention regulations. There only exist a few manuals released following Freedom of Information Requests (FOIRs). In 2020, the Australian Information Commissioner ordered the release of Serco’s immigration detention centre operating manual. At the time of writing, the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) had not released the manual, arguing that it would allow immigration detainees to make human rights complaints as a “means of intimidating Serco personnel.”[142]

On the other hand, a 400-page 2010 Serco “learner guide,” released in 2012, provides guidance and instructions for detention centre staff on the treatment of persons in immigration detention. The manual provides, inter alia, a code of conduct for staff, instructions on conducting searches (screening search, pat search, strip search), and a section on control and restraint which teaches officers restraining techniques but also “defensive counter-strikes” such as: straight punches; palm heel strikes; side angle kicks; front thrust kicks; and knee strikes.[143] In addition, a 2015 Serco “Management Guide” includes several manuals on procedures to follow in immigration detention. The “Behaviour Management” manual provides guidance as regards detainees displaying “anti-social behaviour.” The manual provides examples of anti-social behaviour and explains procedures that are to be followed in such cases. For instance, the manual states that any detainee demonstrating unacceptable behaviours is to be referred to the International Health and Medical Services (IHMS) for review and also explains the use of “restrictive accommodation” for those detainees.[144] Another manual within the management guide goes through procedures regarding death in detention, detailing reporting and on scene requirements.[145]

Moreover, the DHA has also released certain manuals regarding procedures in immigration detention centres, including: the use of force in detention;[146] assessment and placement of detainees in immigration detention facilities;[147] and one on alternative places of detention.[148]

A long-standing area of concern has been detainee access to telecommunications. In particular, authorities have attempted to prohibit detainees’ use of mobile phones, claiming that detainees use them to conduct criminal activities, plan escape attempts, and intimidate staff and other detainees.[149]

In 2017, the use of mobile phones and SIM cards in immigration detention facilities was banned. However, this policy was soon found to be invalid by the Federal Court, which held that it was not authorised by the Migration Act.[150] During inspection visits to detention facilities in 2018, the Australian Human Rights Commission spoke to facility staff, who reported that although a small number of detainees used their telephones to intimidate others, generally the reintroduction of mobile phones had brought significant benefits—including to detainees’ mental wellbeing. [151]

A bill has been proposed that would amend the Migration Law (Migration Amendment [Prohibiting Items in Immigration Detention Facilities] Bill 2020) to allow mobile phones and other internet-connecting devices to be labelled as “prohibited items.”[152] The bill, which as of this writing has not advanced, was criticised by some observers for violating international rules. Amnesty International argued that due to the “woefully inadequate” provision of fixed phones and computers within detention facilities, the bill would leave most detainees unable to contact legal representatives and family members—thus potentially breaching UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Mandela Rules), which amongst other provisions ensure detainees’ rights to remain connected with the outside world.[153]

 

2.12 Domestic Monitoring

Australia ratified the Optional Protocol of the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) in 2017,[154] although it opted to postpone establishment of a National Preventive Mechanism (NPM)—a key detention monitoring body required by the protocol—until 2022.[155] As of January 2022, however, the country had still not designated NPMs in each state and territory, a failure which was widely criticised by civil society groups and opposition political figures.[156]

Commenting on the country’s OPCAT ratification, the Refugee Council of Australia said: "Even the highest quality detention monitoring will not address the fundamental issue with immigration detention in Australia: it is mandatory, indefinite and arbitrary and not subject to a proper and transparent review."[157]

The Commonwealth Ombudsman undertakes inspections of facilities—including, in the past, inspections of facilities in Papua New Guinea and Nauru—and receives and investigates complaints from detainees. However, the Ombudsman does not publish reports following these inspections.[158] During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ombudsman reported that it had had to pause in-person visits to onshore detention facilities—but as of August 2020, physical visits had resumed.[159]

The Australian Human Rights Commission monitors and inspects Australia’s immigration detention facilities and ensures that the human rights of detained migrants and asylum seekers are respected. The commission has for many years, called on the government to end the system of mandatory immigration detention as it leads to breaches of Australia’s human rights obligations. While the commission acknowledges that the use of immigration detention may be legitimate in some circumstances for a strictly limited period of time, in order to avoid detention being arbitrary there must be an individual assessment of the necessity of detention for each person, taking into account their individual circumstances.[160]

Immigration detention facilities are also monitored by the Australian Red Cross. The organisation’s humanitarian observers regularly assess detention conditions, detainees’ access to services, and the treatment of detainees. The Australian Red Cross has also supported the International Committee of the Red Cross in its monitoring visits to offshore detention facilities in Papua New Guinea and Nauru.[161] However, while the two organisations raise issues with the government, reports of their inspections are not published.[162]

On the other hand, the Australian Ombudsman’s (“Commonwealth Ombudsman”) inspection reports on immigration detention centres are publicly available.[163] Between January and March 2020, the Ombudsman conducted inspections at the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation; the Mantra Bell City APOD; and the Villawood Immigration Detention Centre.[164] Moreover, the Australian Human Rights Commission also conducts visits to immigration detention centres and publishes reports on specific inspection visits,[165] as well as yearly reports on the situation in the country’s detention facilities.[166]

 

2.13 International Monitoring

Australia’s immigration detention practices have been heavily scrutinised by international observers, who have highlighted a variety of concerns with respect to arbitrary detention, use of indefinite and mandatory detention, operations at offshore processing facilities, abuses suffered by detainees both in mainland and offshore centres, the detention of children, and the role of private actors in operating detention centres, amongst other issues.

The country’s rigid mandatory detention regime and indefinite detention policies have been frequently flagged by human rights mechanisms as cause for concern. In 2021 for example, during its review for the third cycle of the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR), Australia received several recommendations, including: “Review its immigration detention regime to end the indefinite detention of people seeking asylum in Australia and to stop offshore processing of refugees and provide pathways to resettlement (Finland) (para 146.313)” and “amend the Migration Act 1958 to prohibit placing children in immigration detention (Rwanda) (para 146.334).”[167] According to the Refugee Council of Australia, of the 122 UN member states that participated in Australia’s UPR hearing on 20 January 2021, 45 states made comments or recommendations on refugee and detention policies. In particular, comments were raised regarding the offshore processing of people seeking asylum, indefinite immigration detention, lack of legislation to prohibit the detention of children, refoulement, and a lack of compliance of the country’s asylum and border management policies with international law.[168]

Furthermore, in 2017 the UN Human Rights Committee noted that it was “particularly concerned about what appears to be the use of detention powers as a general deterrent against unlawful entry rather than in response to an individual risk.”[169] In 2017, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants also encouraged Australia to cease using detention as an “automatic consequence of a decision to refuse admission of entry or of a removal order,” and to instead: “Change its laws and policies related to mandatory administrative detention of migrants in an irregular situation and asylum seekers, so that detention is decided on a case-by-case basis and pursuant to clearly and exhaustively defined criteria in legislation.”[170] In its review in 2017, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) repeated concerns about Australia’s “policy of indefinite mandatory immigration detention for anyone who arrives in Australia without a visa, including children and unaccompanied minors,” and urged Australia to ensure detention is used as a last resort and subject to regular judicial reviews and to repeal mandatory detention.[171]

Previously, in its 2014 concluding observations, the UN Committee against Torture (CAT) recommended that, “the State party should adopt the necessary measures with a view to considering: (a) repealing the provisions establishing the mandatory detention of persons entering its territory irregularly; (b) ensuring that detention should be only applied as a last resort, when determined to be strictly necessary and proportionate in each individual case, and for as short a period as possible; and (c) establishing, in case it is necessary and proportionate that a person should be detained, statutory time limits for detention and access to an effective judicial remedy to review the necessity of the detention.”[172]

In an April 2016 adjudication by the UN Human Rights Committee,[173] Australia’s indefinite detention of refugees on secret security grounds was found to be arbitrary and illegal. The case concerned five refugees (one Iranian, three Sri Lankan, and one Afghan) who Australia recognised as refugees because returning them to their countries of origin was unsafe, but who were nonetheless refused visas due to “adverse security assessments” made by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) and who were subsequently detained between 2009 and 2015. According to the committee, the refugees’ detention was arbitrary and contrary to Article 9(1) of the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) because Australia had not “demonstrated on an individual basis that their continuous indefinite detention was justified,” had not demonstrated “that other, less intrusive, measures could not have achieved the same end of compliance with the State party’s need to respond to the security risk that the authors were said to represent,” and had deprived the refugees of legal safeguards “allowing them to effectively challenge the grounds for their indefinite detention.” The committee also held that the refugees’ detention was contrary to their right to liberty, because the government had failed to justify why they posed a security risk.[174] Subsequently, the ASIO reversed its security assessments and all five refugees were released into the community, having spent between four and six years incarcerated without charge.[175]

International observers have also frequently challenged Australia’s offshore detention practices. In particular, several UN treaty bodies have held that Australia has violated its obligations under international law by outsourcing the processing of refugee claims offshore; denying fair and efficient asylum procedures, legal representation, and the right to appeal in offshore processing facilities; forcing vulnerable asylum seekers and refugees to be confined in overcrowded facilities lacking sufficient health care services; failing to revoke policies allowing children to be detained offshore; and exposing detainees—particularly females and children—to sexual abuse and physical violence coupled with insufficient access to justice.[176] Some UN treaty bodies, such as the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), have urged Australia to cease the use of offshore processing.[177]

Although Australia has ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT), as of January 2022 it had yet to receive a visit from the Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture (SPT). While the SPT announced that it would visit Australia in March/April 2020, this visit was postponed due to COVID-19 and a new date has not yet been confirmed.[178]

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) also visits immigration detention facilities and publishes monitoring reports, mostly concerning offshore immigration detention. One of its latest reports concerned the situation of refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island and Papua New Guinea, published in May 2018. According to that UNHCR report, 3,172 refugees and asylum seekers had been forcibly transferred to facilities in PNG and Nauru since the introduction of the offshore processing policy in 2013.[179]

The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) last visited Australia in 2002, following which it expressed concerns regarding the mandatory detention of unauthorised arrivals, restrictions on judicial review, the detention of children, and the psychological impact of detention on asylum seekers. The Working Group concluded by urging Australian authorities to review its laws in order to bring them into compliance with international standards, such as the ICCPR.[180]

Despite not having visited Australia since 2002, the WGAD regularly issues judgements, called “opinions”, on specific cases of alleged arbitrary detention of asylum seekers and migrants in Australia. Between 2002-2021, it adopted 17 such opinions, each of which concluded that the detention had been arbitrary.[181]

As an example, at its 90th session in May 2021 the WGAD considered the case of Mirand Pjetri, an Albanian national who arrived by boat from Indonesia in Australia in September 2013 and had been held in immigration detention on Christmas Island, in Darwin, at Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation in Broadmeadows, and at Villawood Immigration Detention Centre in Sydney, where he was still being held.[182] Despite good character records, Mr. Pjetri’s applications for safe haven enterprise visas and bridging visas, which would have given him a reprieve from the eight years he had spent in closed detention centres, were repeatedly refused. Requests for ministerial intervention were also refused, despite serious ill-health that Mr Pjetri has suffered due to the length of time he had spent in detention. In 2019, the authorities engaged in an abortive attempt to deport Mr. Pjetri. Even though Mr. Pjetri was hospitalised repeatedly due to grave ill-health (mental and physical), he continued to be returned to immigration detention and remained on a removal list for deportation; the uncertainty of these circumstances only exacerbated his poor health.

The WGAD found that Mr. Pjetri’s prolonged detention for over eight years in Australian immigration centres was arbitrary on several grounds: Mr. Pjetri was arbitrarily and indefinitely detained for exercising his fundamental right to seek asylum (Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)) and in violation of his rights to non-discrimination and liberty and security of person (Articles 2 and 9 of the ICCPR); he was arbitrarily and indefinitely detained without the right to effective judicial review or the right to appeal the decision to detain, and without a legal limit set on the length of his detention after which he would be released (in violation of Article 9 (2) of the ICCPR); and his detention was discriminatory on the grounds of nationality (in violation of Article 26 of the ICCPR).[183]

 

2.14 Transparency and Access to Data

Although Australia discloses information regarding the location of detention facilities as well as monthly detention statistics, it has long been criticised for its lack of transparency surrounding immigration detention—particularly regarding its offshore detention operations. According to observers: “This has created a closed, controlled environment, in which people are routinely neglected and harmed.”[184]

According to Section 42 of the Australian Border Force Act (2015),[185] no one contracted to work for the Australian Border Force (ABF) must speak publicly about their work. Those who do face two years’ imprisonment—although medical practitioners have been exempted since 2017, following complaints by human rights observers.[186] In 2015, the existence of this legislation forced the UN Special Rapporteur for the Human Rights of Migrants to postpone his monitoring visit to the country, stating that: “This threat of reprisals with persons who would want to cooperate with me on the occasion of this official visit is unacceptable. … The Act prevents me from fully and freely carrying out my duties during the visit.”[187]

Monthly detention statistics are made available online by the Department of Home Affairs (DHA).[188] However, in a 2020 submission from the Australia OPCAT Network to the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (SPT) and the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD), the network argued that these statistics are “increasingly insufficient or misleading.” For instance, the network reported that “in August 2019, when 53 men were detained in the Bomana Immigration Centre in Port Moresby, the Department continued to report the number of people detained in offshore facilities as zero.” It also pointed to the fact that some children in detention have been classified as “guests” and thus excluded from statistics; that the department does not fully disclose information and statistics concerning all Alternative Places of Detention (APODs); and that the department does not disclose the numbers held in facilities other than immigration detention centres, immigration transit accommodation, and some APODs, such as at airports, at sea, or in Department of Home Affairs (DHA) offices.[189]

Access to offshore detention facilities has been a particular source of controversy, with independent observers and journalists frequently struggling to gain access. For years, Nauru refused to grant visas to most Australian media outlets seeking to report on immigration detention, and in 2014 the island increased its media visa fees from 200 AUD to 8,000 AUD.[190] Although the Australian government claimed it had no involvement in these decisions, in 2018 the Guardian Australia revealed that these obstructions were part of a joint effort between Australia and Nauru.[191]

In 2016, Nauru also announced that it would not grant visas to any Australian or New Zealand passport holders unless they worked for the ABF, while in July 2019 Papua New Guinea announced a similar policy whereby it would block all travel to Manus Island for tourism purposes—purportedly as an effort to prevent refugee advocates from travelling to the island and meeting with refugees.[192] On one particularly notable occasion, the Australian Greens Senator, Nick McKim, travelled to Manus following reports of growing rates of self-harm and suicide attempts amongst refugees and asylum seekers. However, following a request to view accommodation conditions, McKim was deported to Australia.[193]

The involvement of private companies within the country’s detention operations has also led to transparency concerns. In 2020, CCTV footage released under freedom of information laws showed Serco guards physically abusing a detainee. The footage, which was captured in 2015, was investigated by the Australian Human Rights Commission in 2019—who were allegedly told to keep the footage under wraps by the DHA as it would have a “substantial adverse impact” on Serco’s operations. However, in a letter to the DHA the commission wrote: "Disclosure of this type of information ... goes towards increasing scrutiny, discussion, comment, and review of the government's activities."[194]

 

2.15 Trends and Statistics

Australia’s Department of Home Affairs (DHA) reported that as of 30 September 2021, there were 1,459 people confined in immigration detention facilities. Of these, 991 were in dedicated immigration detention centres (IDCs), 103 were in Alternative Places of Detention (APODs), and 365 were in Immigration Transit Accommodation (ITAs). On that date, the department also reported that there were no children in detention (in APODs).[195] (It is worth noting, however, that observers have criticised the department’s statistics as “insufficient or misleading,” and their accuracy is thus questioned. For more, see: “Section 2.14 Transparency and Access to Information.”)

Of the country’s immigration detainee population, 19.9 percent (291 people) were people who “arrived unlawfully by air or by boat.” The remaining 80.1 percent (1,168 people) were detained for overstaying their visas, or whose visas had been cancelled. The most common countries of origin for detainees were New Zealand (241 people), Iran (140 people), Vietnam (136 people), Sudan (65 people), India (61 people), Iraq (60 people), Afghanistan (53 people), United Kingdom (53 people), Sri Lanka (48 people), and Fiji (44 people).[196]

According to DHA statistics, the total number of immigration detainees has generally decreased in recent years: from 6,122 people in December 2013 (including 2,183 on Christmas Island);[197] to 1,792 in December 2015 (including 145 on Christmas Island);[198] 1,285 in December 2017 (including 327 on Christmas Island);[199] 1,450 in December 2019 (including “less than five” on Christmas Island);[200] and 1,459 in September 2021 (including 226 on Christmas Island).[201]

 

2.16 Privatisation

Australia has a largely privatised immigration detention system, a rare quality that it appears to share with only two other English-language (and common law) countries, the United Kingdom and the United States.[202] As of 2022, the country’s detention centres, both on the mainland and on Christmas Island, were operated by the controversial multinational firm Serco.[203]

Australia’s offshore processing centres in Nauru and Papua New Guinea (Manus Island) have been operated by a series of private contractors, including G4S, Ferrovial, Paladin, Transfield (Broadspectrum), and Canstruct International. Although Australia’s Manus Island detention and processing operations have formally ended, the country maintains a processing site in Nauru, which is operated by the Brisbane firm Canstruct International. In early 2022, Australia awarded Canstruct “its eighth non-competitive contract extension—for $218.5m to provide six months of ‘garrison and welfare services’ on Nauru.” According to the Guardian: “The company’s total revenue from island contracts over the past five years now totals more than $1.8bn.”[204]

The privatisation arrangements and the performance of these companies have been the source of numerous criticisms and investigations dating back to the late 1990s due to the mistreatment of detainees and contracting scandals, amongst other controversies.

Until 1998, detention facilities were operated by a government agency, the Australian Protective Services.[205] In 1996, the government proposed using private contractors, announcing in its budget that year that it intended to pursue this option. According to one account, the government saw privatisation “as a means of cutting costs and improving efficiency in the provision of immigration detention services.”[206]

Despite claims of cost effectiveness, assessments of the value of detention contracts have revealed the tremendous cost of hiring private companies. The Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) reported that the most lucrative contracts issued by Australia for managing its offshore processing operations during the period August 2012 to February 2021 were: Broadspectrum (approximately $2.5 billion); Canstruct International ($1.4 billion); Canstruct ($653 million); International Health and Medical Services ( $445 million); and Paladin ($443 million).[207]

In 1998, the government contracted Australasian Correctional Services (ACS), the Australian subsidiary of Wackenhut Corrections Corporation, to become the country’s first private company to manage immigration detention centres. The initial contract specified that ACS was to run seven immigration detention centres for a period of three years. Following intense media and NGO criticism of ACS operations, the government ended its immigration-related detention service contract with the company in 2003. The government established a new contract with the security firm Group 4 Falck (now G4S) in August 2003.[208]

In 2009, amidst a scandal over the death of a detainee in G4S custody, Serco took over operations of detention centres on the mainland and Christmas Island.[209] G4S nevertheless continued to be contracted to operate the overseas processing detention site on Manus Island until 2015, when Transfield (later, Broadspectrum), which was already operating the detention site on Nauru,[210] took over operations not long after G4S guards were charged with murdering a detainee at the Manus Island centre.[211]

Transfield, which reportedly was paid $1.5 billion during the period 2012-2015 to operate Nauru,[212] was also the subject of numerous scandals, as its subcontractors were “accused of a series of abuses, including handcuffing children, spying on a senator when she visited the island on an official trip, assaulting asylum seekers who were handcuffed, and running a secretive solitary confinement facility on Manus.”[213]

A more recent contractor of Australia’s offshore processing operation, Paladin, which replaced Broadspectrum at the refugee centres in Papua New Guinea, has also been heavily criticised. In 2020, Australia’s Auditor-General “rebuked the Department of Home Affairs for handing little-known security company, Paladin, a $532 million refugee services contract on Manus Island, saying taxpayers did not receive ‘value for money.’”[214] According to the RCOA, among the concerns that were raised during a financial review of the company were: the problematic nature of its closed-tender contract; the controversial background of the company’s founder, Craig Thrupp, whose track record includes “allegations of financial mismanagement, deception, questionable payments, and large debts”; and corruption allegations of a Paladin company that is majority-owned by the family of high-ranking Papua New Guinea political leader.[215]

Serco has also repeatedly come under criticism for its detention management practices, including its guards’ excessive use of force.[216] In March 2012, the company’s “prison-style” training manual was leaked, revealing instructions on how to “hit” and “strike” detainees, and recommendations to use “pain” to defend, subdue, and control asylum seekers. In one part, the company attempts to train guards to employ a “downward kick” to the lower shin to cause a “high level of pain and mental stunning” lasting for up to seven seconds.[217] According to one Australian senator who read sections of the manual during a parliamentary session: “There is nothing in this training manual to suggest anybody working on the ground in our detention centres have the skills necessary to deal with the specific needs of asylum seekers.”[218]

More recently, in 2020 CCTV footage released under freedom of information laws showed Serco guards punching a detainee, wrestling him to the ground, and knocking his tooth loose. The footage, which was captured in 2015, was investigated by the Australian Human Rights Commission in 2019—who were allegedly told to keep the footage under wraps by the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) as it would have a “substantial adverse impact” on Serco’s operations. According to the commission, the guards’ actions were “unnecessary” and “excessive,” and breached both the DHA’s and Serco’s operational guidelines.[219]

The provision of other services at detention centres, including medical care, has also been the subject of severe criticism and debate due to concerns related to lack of effective oversight by government agencies, models of care driven by financial interests rather than medical necessity, and medical personnel prioritising company policy and political decisions rather than patients’ needs.

Stephen Brooker, a former director for mental health at Australia’s private detention health provider, International Health and Medical Services (IHMS), writes that soon after he started with the company, “it became apparent that there was an immediate safety risk in terms of the adequate implementation of the Psychological Support Program (PSP), which was the framework used within immigration detention facilities involving all organizations: Department of Immigration and Border Protection; Serco;  (the Detention Security Provider DSP); and IHMS (health provider). The clinical procedures of the PSP were not clear and clinical recommendations were at times ignored. There was also an expectation that IHMS clinicians would interact with the clients in a similar way to other contracted detention service staff, and with the detention service provider failing to recognize that this approach blurred the critical need to distinguish between the role of health care staff and detention security staff.”[220]

According to Brooker, this public-private setup of health care in immigration detention has created “dual loyalty” challenges for health care providers, who faced “uncertainty … in what they could say … or how to act when faced with an intransigent organization who expected clinicians to prioritize detention operational issues over clinical considerations.” Those who didn’t toe the company line, writes Brooker, were subjected to reprisals: “Mental health clinicians who spoke openly about the role of the broader environment in causing harm or who were openly critical of the policy were seen or felt to have inappropriately engaged in political advocacy. This usually ended with a contract being cancelled or not being renewed. It was a strange situation where everyone appeared to acknowledge that the environment caused mental health issues and harm but this could not be discussed openly.”[221]

  

2.17 Cost of Detention

According to official data, the annual cost of holding a single person in immigration detention during the 2020-2021 fiscal year was on average $361,835. This cost rose to $471,493 if the person was held in a hotel-type accommodation; and to $458,506 in hotel-type APODs in Brisbane and Melbourne. On the other hand, a price tag per person per year for “community detention” was $46,490 on average.[222]

As regards offshore processing operations, the total cost between 2013 and 2021 is estimated to have been a staggering $9.03 billion.[223] In 2016-2017, the government allocated $880.5 million for offshore processing, but reportedly spent $1.083 billion. Likewise, in 2019-2020, $526.6 million was budgeted but costs rose to $961.7 million. The government reports that it intends to reduce the costs of its offshore processing to $307.5 million in 2021-2022, and to $296.1 million by 2023-2024.[224]

According to the Refugee Council of Australia, the top contractors in offshore processing by value of contracts from August 2012 to 5 February 2021 were: 1) Broadspectrum (Australia) PTY Limited with an approximate $2.5 billion contract; 2) Canstruct International PTY Ltd with a $1.4 billion contract; 3) Canstruct PTY Ltd with a $653 million contract; 4) International Health and Medical Services Pty Ltd with a $445 million contract; and 5) Paladin Holdings PTE Ltd with a $443 million contract.[225]

 

2.18 Externalisation

Australia has long been notorious for its efforts to externalise immigration controls and offshore asylum processing, which have inspired copycat proposals in numerous other countries, particularly in Europe.[226] These efforts led to the emergence of a far-flung detention system that has included employing “regional processing centres” in foreign countries (Papua New Guinea and Nauru), financing border controls and detention schemes in Indonesia with the assistance of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), and “excising” Australian islands from the country’s “migration  zone,” where detainees are prevented from accessing asylum procedures amongst other basic legal guarantees and services.

By the end of 2021, Australia had ceased all processing and detention operations in Papua New Guinea. However, it continues to have operations in Nauru, with which it finalised an agreement in 2021 to maintain “an enduring form” of offshore processing indefinitely.[227] When Australia announced it would be ending its Papua New Guinea operations in October 2021, the 124 refugees who remained there were given the option to permanently settle in Papua New Guinea or request a transfer to Nauru.[228] A government spokesperson said that there was “zero chance of settlement in Australia for those in Papua New Guinea.”[229]

According to the Refugee Council of Australia, “As of 31 December 2021, there were 105 people still in PNG and 114 on Nauru.”[230]

Despite the continued operations on Nauru, officials declared in 2015 that asylum seekers at the processing centre would no longer be detained and could move about freely on the island. For the refugees languishing on the island, however, their situation remained dire. An observer from Human Rights Law Centre remarked: “A transition to an open centre [is] an important and hard-won improvement, but letting people go for a walk does not resolve the fundamental problems. … The men, women, and children on Nauru need a real solution—settlement in a safe place where they can rebuild their lives.”[231]

The origins of this offshore system date back to 2001, when a Norwegian tanker called the MV Tampa entered Australian waters after having rescued 433 mainly Hazara Afghan asylum seekers. The Australian Special Air Service (SAS) interdicted the ship and the asylum seekers were eventually escorted to the Pacific island of Nauru, from where 131 of them were sent to New Zealand and the remaining 302 were processed on Nauru.[232] This was the first time that Australian forces had intercepted a boat carrying refugees.[233]

The “Tampa affair,” as it came to be known, occurred at a time of “escalating numbers of boat arrivals to Australia’s north-west—from 200 in 1998 to 5,516 in 2001 (though boat arrivals only ever represented about 1.5 percent of Australia’s total migration intake).”[234] This growth in numbers combined with a host of other incidents—including the sinking of a migrant boat called SIEV X in which 353 men, women and children drowned, and the spread of fabricated stories about migrant children being thrown off boats so they could be rescued and given asylum—fuelled a moral panic in Australia that was enflamed by leading political figures.

When the Tampa sought to land the rescued asylum seekers in Australia, then-Prime Minister John Howard responded, saying: “I believe it is in Australia’s national interest that we draw a line on what is increasingly becoming an uncontrollable number of illegal arrivals in this country.” The same day that the ship was boarded by the Australia SAS, Howard tabled a bill in Parliament “giving the government sweeping powers to refuse entry to people seeking asylum by seas.”[235]

The slate of legislative proposals eventually adopted by Australia, dubbed the “Pacific Solution,” consisted of the Amendment (Excision from Migration Zone) Bill 2001 and the Migration Amendment (Excision from Migration Zone) (Consequential Provisions) Bill 2001. Under these new laws, several Australian offshore islands (Christmas Island, Ashmore and Cartier Islands, and the Cocos) were excised from Australia’s migration zone.[236] In practice this meant that “unauthorised” non-citizens arriving at one of these islands without a valid visa were unable to make a valid application for a visa to enter Australia and instead were transferred to offshore processing centres set up on Nauru and Manus Island in Papua New Guinea where they were required to stay until their asylum claims had been processed.[237] These offshore measures were later bolstered by successive amendments.

The 2013 Unauthorised Maritime Arrivals and Other Measures Act provides that no “unauthorised maritime arrivals” would be able to apply for a protection visa in Australia and they would all be sent to “regional processing countries” for the processing of their refugee claims.[238] This removed differences in legal status of people arriving at “excised offshore places” (created after the Tampa affair) and those arriving elsewhere in Australia.[239]

The 2014 Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment Act empowered the immigration minister to detain people at sea (both within Australian waters and on the high seas) and to transfer them to any country, or a vessel of another country, even without that country’s consent.[240]

Although Australia is commonly considered to be the original source of offshore detention and processing policies, Australian politicians found inspiration for the Pacific Solution in U.S. migrant interdiction and detention practices implemented in the Caribbean in the 1980s and 1990s. Australia’s parliamentary digest describing  the Howard government’s proposals recounts various policies pursued by successive U.S. administrations to combat “people smuggling,” highlighting in particular directives to interdict suspected smuggling vessels in the high seas, including the U.S. President Bill Clinton’s directive “providing for the offshore processing of illegal immigrants.” The digest states how in the United States “there is a distinction between illegal immigrants who are interdicted offshore and those who apply within the territory of the United States. The distinction is between immigrants who are 'seeking admission' and those who are ‘in and admitted to the United States.’ … Illegal immigrants who are interdicted offshore are taken to a third country or a United States ‘trust territory’ for processing. These places include Guantanamo in Cuba, the Mariana Islands and Midway, but not Guam or the Virgin Islands which form part of the United States. As at 1998, the United States was negotiating with Mexico to reach an agreement allowing assessment within Mexican waters and repatriation via Mexico. It is difficult to get accurate information on agreements between the United States and processing countries or countries of origin. However, it is understood that in several cases, ‘jurisdiction’ over foreign ships in international waters has been exercised under the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) regulations established by the International Maritime Organisation. Otherwise, jurisdiction has been obtained by consent in individual cases.”[241]

Australia’s Pacific Solution became the focus of an international human rights campaign. Amnesty International filed complaints against Australia with UNHCR and the UN Committee against Torture, claiming that refugees’ rights to freedom and security were being jeopardised. The Australian public, meanwhile, largely supported the changes, re-electing the Conservative Howard government, which proclaimed victory over a foreign invasion.[242] A total of 1,637 people were detained on Nauru and Manus islands between 2001 and February 2008, when the Pacific Solution was formally ended, of whom 70 per cent were found to be refugees and were resettled in either Australia or another country (such as New Zealand, the USA, Sweden, and Canada).[243] In 2012, offshore processing and detention of asylum seekers in Nauru and Papua New Guinea was resumed, reversing a 2008 decision to end it. In October 2021, the Australian government announced that it would stop processing asylum seekers in Papua New Guinea at the end of 2021 due to the country’s worsening COVID-19 outbreak.[244] However, it continues to have operations in Nauru, with which it finalised an agreement in September 2021 to maintain “an enduring form” of offshore processing indefinitely.[245]

 

2.19 COVID-19 Response                                                                                                                              

Observers in Australia warned about the high risks of COVID-19 outbreaks for refugees and asylum seekers in immigration detention since the onset of the pandemic in 2020. There was concern that mitigation measures in overcrowded detention centres were inadequate and that the slow and uneven implementation of the country’s vaccination campaign (in particular during the first half of 2021) left detainees extremely vulnerable. There were calls for asylum seekers to be released as their continued detention in the midst of a pandemic could not be justified.[246] In a joint letter to the Minister for Home Affairs in April 2020, more than 1,100 health professionals urged that “failure to take action to release people seeking asylum and refugees from detention will … put them at risk of infection and possibly death” as well as “placing a greater burden on Australian society and the health care system.”[247]

While the Australian government followed the advice of epidemiologists and health care professionals in its overall management of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has consistently refused to include refugees, asylum seekers, and other non-citizens in its national public health response. In continuing to view this population from a perspective of national security, criminality, and border control, the pandemic reinforced Australia's regime of mandatory immigration detention.[248]

On 23 March 2020, asylum seekers in detention across Australia wrote an open letter to the prime minister pleading for their release into the community. The detainees wrote: “It is only a matter of time before it will breach our closed environment. … We are sitting ducks for Covid-19 and are extremely exposed to becoming severely ill, with the possibility of death.”[249]

However, the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) promptly rejected these and other calls to release detainees, claiming that “infection control plans are in place and plans to manage suspected cases of Covid-19 have been developed and tested. Detainees displaying any Covid-19 symptoms may be quarantined and tested in line with advice from health officials and in accordance with the broader Commonwealth response.”[250] The Australian Border Force also responded by confirming that immigration detainees had full access to medical professionals and the same range of health care services as Australian citizens.[251]

In a June 2021 report examining the country’s management of COVID-19 risks in immigration detention, the Australian Human Right Commission highlighted that while other countries released immigration detainees at the start of the health crisis, Australia instead increased its detainee population during the first year of the pandemic from 1,373 in March 2020 to 1,527 in February 2021.[252] The commission noted that this increase had “contributed to capacity pressures throughout Australia’s network of immigration detention facilities and increased the concentration of detainees in compounds at various times throughout 2020.”[253]

It described COVID-19 as a “serious threat” for those held in immigration detention, raising concerns about the high density of people held in enclosed, confined spaces where a significant proportion of them had pre-existing health conditions which could worsen the outcomes of contracting COVID-19. It urged the government to "follow expert health advice by placing people who present a low security risk in community-based alternatives to closed detention" as other countries have done with success. The commission recommended reducing the numbers being held in immigration detention facilities, improving physical distancing, especially in overcrowded bedrooms, paying special attention to detainees with underlying health conditions, and ensuring that any resort to quarantine must be "reasonable, necessary and proportionate to addressing COVID-19 risks." It recommended that people should not be held in "harsh, prison-like" conditions during their quarantine and should have access to necessary support, and vaccines should be readily available for all immigration detainees, without discrimination.[254]

As well as concerns regarding persons detained in dedicated immigration detention centres, health professionals and refugee rights advocates also urged authorities to release people detained in Alternative Places of Detention (APODs)—such as those held in hotels following their transfer to Australia from offshore facilities in Nauru and Papua New Guinea under the 2019 Medevac legislation. Conditions in such facilities had repeatedly been flagged as a matter of concern prior to the pandemic: for example, in 2019 conditions in Kangaroo Point APOD in Brisbane were described as dirty and comfortless, and rooms were reported to be “crawling with bed bugs.” [255] A detainee at Kangaroo Point APOD told reporters in March 2020 that approximately 80 asylum seekers were in the hotel and that social distancing was impossible to implement. He said: “the doctors, they are saying ‘you need to have three or four metres from each other’, we don’t have one centimetre from each other. We are just sitting with each other in the dining room or on the balcony when people are smoking, that’s the only place we have for fresh air.”[256]

In August 2020, authorities announced that they would be transferring detainees between detention facilities in an effort to minimise overcrowding. As part of this, the government announced that it would be “reopening” Christmas Island detention facility (which was closed in 2018, but re-opened in 2019 to detain the Murugappan family—see “Section 2.5 Children” above—and to quarantine Australians returning from Wuhan, China during the earliest days of the pandemic).[257] According to reports, the Australian Border Force (ABF) confirmed the move, claiming that the country’s inability to deport non-nationals during the pandemic had placed undue pressure on its detention estate.[258] In a Tweet, the ABF stated that refugees and asylum seekers would not be amongst those relocated to the centre.[259] However, observers have argued that refugees continued to be held there, pointing to DHA statistics indicating that 82 of the nearly 250 people in detention on Christmas Island had some kind of refugee visa.[260]

According to detainees who were held in the Christmas Island (North West Point) Immigration Detention Centre, conditions in the facility were poor: they were placed in lockdown for 22 hours a day and were denied access to workable Wi-Fi, leading to many struggling with both their physical and mental health. Describing the conditions in the facility, one refugee said: “It’s worse than jail. In jail, you know when you can go home, in detention they don’t have a timeframe for you to go home. You wait around, and you don’t know what’s happening.”[261] On 5 January 2021, some detainees rioted in protest at their detention conditions. According to one detainee who spoke to the Guardian, the facility’s management had denied detainees the opportunity to hold a peaceful protest—prompting some to react violently and set two of the compounds alight. Additional disturbances were also reported on 10 January.[262]

In its report examining COVID-19 risks in detention, the Australian Human Rights Commission also noted the unsuitability of the facility during the pandemic due to its isolation and lack of sophisticated health care facilities. The commission stated: “As a matter of urgency, the Australian Government should decommission the use of all immigration detention facilities on Christmas Island and implement more appropriate solutions to reduce the number of people in closed immigration detention.”[263]

In January 2021, some of those detained in Melbourne APODs were released (for more on this, see “Section 2.6 Other Vulnerable Groups”). According to the DHA, which justified the releases on a purely financial basis, all those released were granted “final departure bridging visas” which allow “individuals to temporarily reside in the Australian community while they finalise their arrangements to leave Australia.”[264] In a statement, the department said: “The individuals residing in the alternative places of detention were brought to Australia temporarily for medical treatment. They are encouraged to finalise their medical treatment so they can continue on their resettlement pathway to the United States, return to Nauru or PNG, or return to their home country.” [265]

There have been several outbreaks of COVID-19 amongst staff and detainees in immigration detention centres and APODs across Australia since the start of the pandemic. In March 2020, for example, a security guard employed at the Brisbane APOD (Kangaroo Point Hotel) tested positive for COVID-19. Even though this did not lead to an outbreak at the facility, detainees in the facility were not tested after the positive case because the Australian border force said they didn’t “have kits to test everyone.”[266] On 5 September 2021, it was confirmed that at least one guard at Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation (MITA) Broadmeadows Residential Precinct (BRP) had tested positive for COVID-19; meanwhile detainees at the same facility expressed fears about their own health and safety stating that five to six people were expected to share a room in bunk beds. A detainee told Al Jazeera: “They don’t test us for COVID unless we show symptoms. This means they would not actually know if it is spreading until a lot of people are sick. It could travel fast. Guards are free to come and go.”[267]

On 18 October 2021, detainees at Park Hotel, Melbourne (where the world tennis star Novak Djokovic was temporarily detained in January 2022), held a protest against their detention at the hotel during a COVID-19 outbreak. They protested having to share sleeping quarters and cramped eating and recreation spaces during the outbreak, despite the fact that many of them were medically vulnerable. By 22 October 2021, nearly one-third of all the detainees at Park Hotel had tested positive for COVID-19. The Refugee Action Coalition argued that the Australian authorities had “failed to implement the most basic COVID protocols” to prevent infection at the Park Hotel.[268]

Vaccination rates amongst immigration detainees also lagged well behind the rest of the Australian population. As of 29 November 2021, all detainees within Australia’s immigration detention network had been offered a COVID-19 vaccination. Of these, 61 percent of immigration detainees (924) were fully vaccinated (two doses),[269] compared to 93.3 percent of the general population (16 years and over) who were fully vaccinated as of 30 January 2022.[270] Disparities were also reported in vaccination rates for refugees and asylum seekers being held at offshore detention centres. On Nauru, 88 percent of the 107 detainees had received a first dose of the vaccine by 6 September 2021 and 84 percent were fully vaccinated. However, in Papua New Guinea, where the health system was reportedly overburdened with outbreaks, only 20 percent of detainees had received their first dose and just 11 percent were fully vaccinated according to information provided during Senate deliberations on 18 October 2021.[271] The Australian Border Force maintained that all detainees had been offered COVID-19 vaccinations in a roll-out that commenced in early August and was taking place “at all immigration detention facilities across the immigration detention network”.[272]

 

3. DETENTION INFRASTRUCTURE

3.1 Overview

As of January 2022, Australia operated seven immigration detention facilities—six of which were on the Australian mainland, and one on Christmas Island. These facilities include four Immigration Detention Centres (IDCs) and three Immigration Transit Accommodation (ITAs). In addition, the country also makes use of Alternative Places of Detention (APODs), which include hotels that have been repurposed for detention (see “Section 3.3d Alternative Places of Detention” below).[273] Australia previously had detention operations in “regional processing centres” in Nauru and Papua New Guinea (see “Section 3.3e Extraterritorial Detention Facilities in PNG and Nauru” below).

In 2019, the Australian government stated that it would be closing several detention facilities following a drop in boat arrivals. Specifically, the government announced its plans to close Maribyrnong IDC in Melbourne and the Blaxland Compound at Villawood IDC in Sydney—closures that the country’s immigration minister called “another milestone in the ramping-down of Australia’s onshore immigration detention network.” [274] However, these closures were dismissed as a “meaningless announcement” by the Refugee Action Coalition, whose spokesperson pointed to the government’s opening of new compounds at Yongah Hill IDC and a high security compound in the Melbourne ITA.[275]

In 2020, the Australian government also announced the full reopening of North West Point IDC (Christmas Island). Previously shut down in 2018, North West Point was partially re-opened in 2019 under the watch of 109 staff members, and subsequently to quarantine Australians returning from Wuhan, China during the earliest days of the pandemic.[276]

 

3.2 List of Detention Facilities

Immigration Detention Centres (IDCs):

  • Perth Immigration Detention Centre (PIDC) – (45 places)
  • Villawood Immigration Detention Centre (VIDC) – (616 places)
  • Yongah Hill Immigration Detention Centre (YHIDC) – (558 places)
  • North West Point (Christmas Island) Immigration Detention Centre (NWPIDC) – (500 places)

Immigrant Transit Accommodation (ITAs):

  • Brisbane Immigration Transit Accommodation and Fraser Compound (BITA) – (145 places)
  • Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation (MITC) – (396 places)
  • Adelaide Immigration Transit Accommodation (AITA) – (34 places)

 

3.3 Conditions and Regimes in Detention Centres

3.3a Overview. Australia maintains a variety of immigration detention facilities—including secure Immigration Detention Centres (IDC), secure Immigrant Transit Accommodation (ITA), Alternative Places of Detention (APODs), and non-secure Community Detention and Alternative Detention Programs.[277]

The private contractor Serco manages the operations of IDCs, ITAs, and APODs throughout the country on behalf of the Australian government through an arrangement with the Australian Border Force (“Detention Service Provider Contracts”).

3.3b Immigration Detention Centres (IDCs). As of June 2021, the government of Australia maintained four IDCs. The Global Detention Project classifies these centres as secure detention facilities, given that detainees are restricted from leaving by an extensive physical security infrastructure. A 2008 report by the Australian Human Rights Commission noted that IDCs typically have a “security-driven atmosphere” and implement “physical measures [of security] such as high wire fencing and razor wire, and surveillance measures such as closed-circuit television.”[278]

IDCs accommodate people who have been detained under the 1958 Migration Act. As of January 2022, there were four operational IDCs: Villawood IDC (Sydney), Perth IDC (Perth), North West Point (Christmas Island) IDC, and Yongah Hill IDC.[279]

In August 2020, the Australian Border Force announced that it was reopening North West Point (Christmas Island) Detention Centre (NWP IDC) to provide capacity relief during the pandemic. However, the facility has been criticised for its conditions on numerous occasions. For example, during a 2017 visit the Australian Human Rights Commission found that, “due to its remoteness, the nature of its security infrastructure, and limited access to facilities and services on Christmas Island, the NWP IDC is not an appropriate facility for immigration detention, particularly for people who are vulnerable or have been detained for prolonged periods of time.”[280] More recently, in 2021 the commission noted that there is limited medical care available on the island, and that if a detainee requires acute care, they will need to be transferred by air ambulance to Perth. The commission also highlighted the fact that detainees cannot reliably access the internet from their mobile phones, challenging their ability to maintain contact with the outside world.[281] As a result of such observations, in June 2021, the commission urged the Australian government to decommission the use of detention facilities on the island.[282] Nonetheless, as of January 2022, the facility remains in use.[283]

Other IDCs have also received criticism regarding the conditions for detainees. Following a visit to Villawood IDC in April 2017, the Australian Human Rights Commission found that many detainees in the facility did not feel safe due to the risk of physical violence from others in the facility. One detainee told the commission: “I close the door of my room because I’m scared. In jail I had better safety than in detention.” Many of those held in high-security compounds such as Blaxland and Mackenzie reported violent incidents such as fights and assaults, with some reporting that staff had not taken adequate steps to protect them from such incidents. The commission also heard reports of racial discrimination and intimidating behaviour from staff towards detainees, as well as the use of restraints when detainees are transported externally—such as to medical appointments.[284]

In assessing accommodation at the facility—which is separated between lower security and higher security compounds—the commission noted that those held in the main detention complex were housed in modern, purpose-built accommodation blocks, and that bedrooms were shared by up to two people. However, in some areas of the now-closed high security Blaxland compound, some were held in dormitories housing up to six detainees which lacked natural light or sufficient privacy. Some detainees also reported the presence of vermin in the dormitories and criticised the small number of showers and toilets available for their use. Responding to its findings, the commission stated that it: “considers that current accommodation arrangements in Blaxland compound are unacceptable and do not provide humane and dignified conditions of detention as required by the ICCPR.”[285]

According to the commission, each compound at the Villawood IDC has an indoor common area typically containing a TV, seating, basic recreation equipment (such as books and/or a pool table), computers, and a kitchenette. All compounds also had outdoor seating areas—some of which included gardens. In the main complex area, all compounds have indoor and outdoor exercise areas, but at Blaxland compound the outdoor area had limited shade and insufficient space for detainees to run around. People in lower-security compounds could access the canteen to collect their meals, while those in higher security compounds could not, and instead had their meals delivered to their compound. There are limited opportunities for detainees to cook their own meals. Many detainees spoke negatively about food provision, describing it as repetitive and unsuitable for those with specific dietary requirements.[286] In September 2019, the commission returned to the Villawood IDC and found that the Blaxland compound was the only compound that had not yet undergone refurbishment. Since the commission’s visit, the Blaxland compound has closed and detainees held there were transferred to the new high security compound in March 2020.[287]

Several similar criticisms were raised by the commission following its 2017 visit to Perth IDC, including: small and cramped living and exercise facilities; excessive use of restraints; and lack of suitable food for persons with dietary requirements);[288] and its 2017 visit to Yongah Hill IDC, including: limited space and privacy in accommodation areas; poor standards of health care provision; and limited access to computers.[289]

3.3c Immigrant Transit Accommodation (ITA). The second form of secure immigration detention is Immigrant Transit Accommodation (ITAs). The Global Detention Project classifies these facilities as secure, as the Australian Human Rights Commission provides that detainees “are still being held in a closed detention facility. They are not permitted to come and go.”[290] The Melbourne ITA for example, includes various higher-security features, such as an external fence, high internal fences, secure doors, and security cameras.[291]

ITAs were initially intended to hold people in short-term detention before they are transferred to long-term centres or returned home, although they are now used to detain people often for years. These facilities are used for people assessed to be a “low security risk.” As of January 2022, there were three ITAs: Adelaide ITA (Kilburn, Adelaide), Brisbane ITA (near Brisbane Airport), and Melbourne ITA (Melbourne, Victoria).[292]

In 2019, a young Afghan man, detained at the Melbourne ITA tried to set himself on fire following two years in detention.[293] His attempt to self-harm was interrupted but came two days after the death of another Afghan man at the same detention centre. The Australian Human Rights Commission has found numerous shortcomings at the facility, which is made up of four compounds, each dedicated to the detention of specific groups of detainees. Despite traditionally being a “low-security” detention facility, the commission noted a “controlled movement” policy, which prevents detainees moving freely between compounds. While the centre claimed that this was to protect detainees in the female compound, the commission noted that it had significantly curtailed freedom of movement and restricted some detainees’ access to facilities (while some compounds had sufficient space and facilities, others did not).[294]

3.3d Alternative Places of Detention (APODs). In addition to these forms of secure detention, the Australian government operates a third form of secure detention facility called an Alternative Place of Detention (APOD). These facilities include hotels that have been repurposed for detention, and as of January 2022, four APODs were in operation: the Northern APOD (Mercure Darwin Airport Hotel), Meriton Suites (Brisbane), Park Hotel, Carlton (Melbourne), and Best Western (Melbourne). Between January 2018 and January 2021, approximately 170 different APODs were used. Of those, 56 were classified as hotel-type APODs.[295]

Although APODs are intended to be used to confine people for short periods of time, observers have highlighted that people have in reality been detained in such facilities for long periods.[296] Large numbers of persons transferred from offshore detention facilities to the mainland under now-repealed Medevac legislation were held in hotel APODs for several years (for more, see: “Section 2.6 Other Vulnerable Groups.”) According to Department of Home Affairs (DHA) data, as of 30 September 2021, there were 48 people detained in APOD’s in the state of Victoria, 28 in New South Wales, 19 in Queensland, less than 10 in Western Australia, and less than 5 in South Australia.[297]

At the same time however, inspections have found APODs to offer inadequate conditions for long-term detention. In 2019, for example, the Australian Human Rights Commission noted that they provide “very limited” access to communal or outdoor areas. [298] The commission further stated: “The conditions of detention at the Melbourne and Brisbane hotel APODs are inadequate. They are extremely restrictive and lack sufficient outdoor space and facilities for exercise, recreation, and activities. Such restrictive conditions and lack of access to these essential amenities appeared to be contributing to a decline in the physical and mental wellbeing of those detained in the hotel APODs.”[299]

During its visit to a Melbourne hotel APOD in 2019, the commission observed that people were detained in two or three bedrooms but were unable to open their windows; detainees had access to a small common area and a “multipurpose room”; the gym was available for detainees for just one hour a day; and detainees had no access to outdoor space. Detainees complained that they could not get enough fresh air and that they felt “locked in.” [300] Windows were also found to be locked in the Kangaroo Point Hotel APOD in Brisbane, and the facility was similarly flagged for its lack of outdoor space (although detainees were permitted occasional access to the hotel’s small outdoor pool and a BBQ area). At the time of the visit, the commission also learned that detainees had the option between Monday to Friday to be transferred to Brisbane Immigration Transit Accommodation and Fraser Compound (BITA) for an hour to use the centre’s facilities and join in organised activities.[301] This practice ended with the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.[302]

More recently, news reports have highlighted the poor living conditions at the Park Hotel in Melbourne. The windows were reportedly drilled shut to stop refugees from opening them at all.[303] On 27 December 2021, refugees held in the hotel posted images of maggots and mould found in the food they were served in their rooms.[304] In addition, a week earlier, several fires broke out in the facility. Refugees and asylum seekers fled to the ground floor, but were stopped from leaving by guards before being evacuated. Some were hyperventilating with anxiety and others were forced to urinate in bottles as there were no toilets. Australian police said that one person was taken to hospital and treated for smoke inhalation.[305]

Conditions at the Northern APOD (Mercure Darwin Airport Resort) have also been denounced. In February 2020, an Iranian man, Reza Golmohammadian, and his family were flown to Darwin from Nauru for medical treatment. However, a year later, Mr Golmohammadian complained that he and other refugees had received inadequate treatment while they were in Darwin. This claim was backed up by a group of Darwin-based medical professionals who wrote a letter to the Federal Minister for Home Affairs on 8 February 2021, calling for the immediate release of refugees held in the facility. The letter, which was signed by 51 medical professionals, said that many of the refugees had received limited care and that their ongoing medical conditions had not been addressed. Moreover, it highlighted multiple reports of inadequate living conditions and sanitation which contributed to the deteriorating health of the detainees. Mr Golmohammadian said that he and his wife were detained in a 3m x 3m room with bunk beds and that due to his health problems, he was unable to climb into the bunk bed and so slept on the floor.[306]

The Kangaroo Point Hotel APOD is reportedly no longer being used to detain refugees since April 2021, when the last 19 refugees were forcibly removed and transferred to the Brisbane Immigration Transit Accommodation Centre after a change of ownership of the hotel.[307] Prior to this, in March 2021, the government released 50 refugees into the community from Kangaroo Point Hotel without providing a reason for their release.[308] In addition, in January 2021, Australian authorities released 46 refugees from the Park Hotel APOD[309] and a further 25 in August 2021.[310] While the releases were welcomed by civil society, some organisations also took the opportunity to call for the release of all detainees. Dr. Graham Thom, refugee coordinator at Amnesty International, stated that: “while this is an important first step, given the mental health impact on all those still in detention, a number for eight years, the release of those remaining must occur as a matter of urgency.”[311]

3.3e Extraterritorial Detention Facilities in PNG and Nauru. For many years, Australia had detention operations in “regional processing centres” in Nauru and Papua New Guinea. However, as of 2020, both the Nauru Regional Processing Centre (RPC) and the Manus Island RPC in PNG were closed. The Manus Island RPC was closed in October 2017, although it was later replaced with the Bomana Immigration Detention Centre (IDC), which operated between 2019-2020. In October 2020, the Australian government confirmed that there were no longer any people held at Bomana and in 2021 it announced that all processing activities in PNG would be permanently shuddered.[312] In Nauru, Australia continues offshore processing procedures though its formal detention procedures reportedly came to end by the late 2010s.[313]

The Bomana IDC, which opened in 2019 near Port Moresby, was a highly controversial offshore site for detaining asylum seekers, which received widespread media attention during its brief operating period for the deplorable conditions of detention. The Refugee Council of Australia interviewed released detainees who described detention conditions that amounted to cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. They reported being effectively cut off from the outside world for several months, unable to call family or lawyers. Most of the compounds did not have air conditioning and the detainees had to sleep in stifling cells in tropical heat. The water in the shower was boiling hot and the food portions were extremely small to the point that many men lost between 10-20kg in the first two months in the facility.[314]

 

 


[1] Behrouz Boochani, the award-winning writer and former detainee at Australia’s offshore detention centre in Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island, writes that in Australia “a humanitarian issue is repeatedly politicised in the lead-up to Australian federal elections and the ‘competition on cruelty’ is heightened. This model has been used to manipulate the public since the Tampa affair, and the refugees and their family members left behind are the real victims of this populist and sadistic policy.” B. Boochani, “The Pattern Is Clear: Australia’s Next Election Will Be a Competition on Cruelty,” The Guardian, 11 October 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/oct/11/the-pattern-is-clear-australias-next-election-will-be-a-competition-on-cruelty See also: M. Isaacs, "The Intolerable Cruelty of Australia’s Refugee Deterrence Strategy: Canberra’s decision to offshore asylum seekers in inhumane facilities in Papua New Guinea and Nauru isn’t an accident. It’s exactly the intention." Foreign Policy, May 2016, https://foreignpolicy.com/2016/05/02/australia-papua-new-guinea-refugee-manus-nauru/

[2] M. Flynn, “There and Back Again: On the Diffusion of Immigration Detention,” Journal on Migration and Human Security, July 2014, https://cmsny.org/publications/jmhs-there-and-back-again/; D. Ghezelbash Refuge Lost: Asylum Law in an Interdependent World, Cambridge University Press, 2018

[3] Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, “Home Affairs Portfolio: Australia Border Force – Program 3.5: Onshore Compliance and Detention: SE21-323 – Immigration Detention – No of Years Held in Detention;” 25 October 2021, https://www.aph.gov.au/api/qon/downloadestimatesquestions/EstimatesQuestion-CommitteeId6-EstimatesRoundId12-PortfolioId20-QuestionNumber323

[4] M. Gleeson and N. Yacoub, “Cruel, costly, and ineffective: The failure of offshore processing,” Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law, August 2021, https://www.kaldorcentre.unsw.edu.au/sites/kaldorcentre.unsw.edu.au/files/Policy_Brief_11_Offshore_Processing.pdf

[5] Refugee Council of Australia, “Australia’s Detention Policies: Mandatory Detention,” updated May 2020, https://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/detention-policies/

[6] Australian Human Rights Commission, “Inspections of Australia’s Immigration Detention Facilities, 2019 Report,” 3 December 2020, https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/asylum-seekers-and-refugees/publications/inspections-australias-immigration-detention

[7] Australian Human Rights Commission, “Inspections of Australia’s Immigration Detention Facilities, 2019 Report,” 3 December 2020, https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/asylum-seekers-and-refugees/publications/inspections-australias-immigration-detention

[8] Refugee Council of Australia, “Statistics on People in Detention in Australia: Costs of Detention,” 8 January 2022, https://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/detention-australia-statistics/9/

[9] DW, “Germany: 2021 Asylum Applications Highest since 2017,” DW, 12 January 2022, https://www.dw.com/en/germany-2021-asylum-applications-highest-since-2017/a-60394998

[10] UNHCR, “Does the UK Have More Asylum Seekers than Most Countries,” UNHCR UK, accessed on 1 February 2022, https://www.unhcr.org/uk/asylum-in-the-uk.html

[11] Australian Government, Department of Home Affairs, https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/research-and-statistics/statistics/visa-statistics/live/humanitarian-program

[12] Sydney Morning Herald, “UN Rights Chief Slams ‘Racist’ Australia,” 26 May 2011, https://www.smh.com.au/world/un-rights-chief-slams-racist-australia-20110526-1f4yy.html; Jeremy Thompson, “UN Rights Chief Attacks ‘Disturbing’ Policies,” ABC News, 25 May 2011, https://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-05-25/un-rights-chief-attacks-disturbing-policies/2730650

[13] Sydney Morning Herald, “UN Rights Chief Slams ‘Racist’ Australia,” Sydney Morning Herald, 26 May 2011, https://www.smh.com.au/world/un-rights-chief-slams-racist-australia-20110526-1f4yy.html;

[14] UN Human Rights Commissioner, Michelle Bachelet, “2019 Whitlam Oration: Australia’s Role in Human Rights in a Changing World,” Whitlam Institute, 9 October 2019, https://www.whitlam.org/publications/2019/10/9/2019-whitlam-oration-un-human-rights-commissioner-michelle-bachelet

[15] UN Human Rights Commissioner, Michelle Bachelet, “2019 Whitlam Oration: Australia’s Role in Human Rights in a Changing World,” Whitlam Institute, 9 October 2019, https://www.whitlam.org/publications/2019/10/9/2019-whitlam-oration-un-human-rights-commissioner-michelle-bachelet

[16] Government of Australia, “Migration Act 1958,” 8 October 1958, https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2021C00156

[17] Government of Australia, “Maritime Powers Act 2013,” https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2013A00015

[18] Government of Australia, “Australian Border Force Act 2015,” https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2016C00650

[19] Australian Human Rights Commission, “Australia’s Immigration Detention Policy and Practice,” in A Last Resort? National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention, April 2004, Chapter 6, https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/6-australias-immigration-detention-policy-and-practice

[20] Australian Human Rights Commission, “Australia’s Immigration Detention Policy and Practice,” in A Last Resort? National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention, April 2004, Chapter 6, https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/6-australias-immigration-detention-policy-and-practice

[21] Refugee Council of Australia, “Australia’s Detention Policies,” updated May 2020, https://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/detention-policies/

[22] Parliament of Australia, “Immigration Detention in Australia,” updated 20 March 2013, https://www.aph.gov.au/about_parliament/parliamentary_departments/parliamentary_library/pubs/bn/2012-2013/detention

[23] Parliament of Australia, “Immigration Detention in Australia,” updated 20 March 2013, https://www.aph.gov.au/about_parliament/parliamentary_departments/parliamentary_library/pubs/bn/2012-2013/detention

[24] Parliament of Australia, “Immigration Detention in Australia,” updated 20 March 2013, https://www.aph.gov.au/about_parliament/parliamentary_departments/parliamentary_library/pubs/bn/2012-2013/detention

[25] Parliament of Australia, Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, “Chapter 5 – Mandatory Detention Policy,” in Administration and Operation of the Migration Act 1958, 2 March 2006, https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Legal_and_Constitutional_Affairs/Completed_inquiries/2004-07/migration/report/c05

[26] Parliament of Australia, “Immigration Detention in Australia,” updated 20 March 2013, https://www.aph.gov.au/about_parliament/parliamentary_departments/parliamentary_library/pubs/bn/2012-2013/detention

[27] Parliament of Australia, “Immigration Detention in Australia,” updated 20 March 2013, https://www.aph.gov.au/about_parliament/parliamentary_departments/parliamentary_library/pubs/bn/2012-2013/detention

[28] Parliament of Australia, “Immigration Detention in Australia,” updated 20 March 2013, https://www.aph.gov.au/about_parliament/parliamentary_departments/parliamentary_library/pubs/bn/2012-2013/detention

[29] Parliament of Australia, “Immigration Detention in Australia,” updated 20 March 2013, https://www.aph.gov.au/about_parliament/parliamentary_departments/parliamentary_library/pubs/bn/2012-2013/detention

[30] National Museum Australia, “Defining Moments: ‘Tampa Affair’,” https://www.nma.gov.au/defining-moments/resources/tampa-affair

[31] Amnesty International, “What was the “Tampa Affair” and Why Does it Matter?,” 27 August 2001, https://www.amnesty.org.au/what-was-the-tampa-affair-and-why-does-it-matter/

[32] Parliament of Australia, “Immigration Detention in Australia,” updated 20 March 2013, https://www.aph.gov.au/about_parliament/parliamentary_departments/parliamentary_library/pubs/bn/2012-2013/detention

[33] Parliament of Australia, “Immigration Detention in Australia,” updated 20 March 2013, https://www.aph.gov.au/about_parliament/parliamentary_departments/parliamentary_library/pubs/bn/2012-2013/detention

[34] Parliament of Australia, “Immigration Detention in Australia,” updated 20 March 2013, https://www.aph.gov.au/about_parliament/parliamentary_departments/parliamentary_library/pubs/bn/2012-2013/detention

[35]http://classic.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/bill///maddb2009418/

[36] Parliament of Australia, “Immigration Detention in Australia,” updated 20 March 2013, https://www.aph.gov.au/about_parliament/parliamentary_departments/parliamentary_library/pubs/bn/2012-2013/detention

[37] Government of Australia, “Migration (Offences and Undesirable Persons) Amendment Act 1992 No. 213, 1992 -Section 5,” 24 December 1992, http://classic.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/num_act/maupaa1992477/s5.html

[38] Government of Australia, “Migration Amendment (Strengthening the Character Test and Other Provisions) Bill 2011, 23 June 2011, https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Bills_Legislation/bd/bd1011a/11bd143

[39] Government of Australia, “Migration Amendment (Unauthorised Maritime Arrivals and Other Measures) Bill 2012, 8 March 2013, https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Bills_Legislation/bd/bd1213a/13bd084

[40] Government of Australia, “Migration Amendment (Unauthorised Maritime Arrivals and Other Measures) Bill 2012, 8 March 2013, https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Bills_Legislation/bd/bd1213a/13bd084

[41] Government of Australia, “Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment (Resolving the Asylum Caseload) Bill 2014, 25 September 2014, https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Bills_LEGislation/Bills_Search_Results/Result?bId=r5346

[42] Refugee Council of Australia, “Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment (Resolving the Asylum Legacy Caseload) Act 2014: What it Means for People Seeking Asylum,” 1 February 2019, https://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/legacy-caseload-brief/

[43] Refugee Council of Australia, “Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment (Resolving the Asylum Legacy Caseload) Act 2014: What it Means for People Seeking Asylum,” 1 February 2019, https://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/legacy-caseload-brief/

[44] Australian Human Rights Commission, “Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment (Resolving the Asylum Legacy Caseload) Bill 2014,” Submission to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee, 31 October 2014, https://humanrights.gov.au/sites/default/files/2014.10.31 Submission re Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment Act.pdf?_ga=2.210660112.488275248.1632707968-155655995.1625813226

[45] Australian Human Rights Commission, “Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment (Resolving the Asylum Legacy Caseload) Bill 2014,” Submission to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee, 31 October 2014, https://humanrights.gov.au/sites/default/files/2014.10.31 Submission re Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment Act.pdf?_ga=2.210660112.488275248.1632707968-155655995.1625813226

[46] Australian Human Rights Commission, “Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment (Resolving the Asylum Legacy Caseload) Bill 2014,” Submission to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee, 31 October 2014, https://humanrights.gov.au/sites/default/files/2014.10.31 Submission re Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment Act.pdf?_ga=2.210660112.488275248.1632707968-155655995.1625813226

[47] Government of Australia, “Migration Amendment (Character and General Visa Cancellation) Bill 2014,” 25 November 2014, https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Bills_Legislation/bd/bd1415a/15bd053

[48] Government of Australia, “Migration Amendment (Strengthening the Character Test and Other Provisions) Bill 2011, 23 June 2011, https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Bills_Legislation/bd/bd1011a/11bd143

[49] Australian Human Rights Commission, “Inspection of Australia’s Immigration Detention Facilities 2019 Report,” 3 December 2020, https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/asylum-seekers-and-refugees/publications/inspections-australias-immigration-detention

[50]Migration Amendment (Urgent Medical Treatment) Bill 2018, https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Bills_Legislation/Bills_Search_Results/Result?bId=r6236

[51] Kate Walton, “’Dark Day’: Australia Repeals Medical Evacuation for Refugees,” Al Jazeera, 4 December 2019, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/12/4/dark-day-australia-repeals-medical-evacuation-for-refugees

[52] Government of Australia, “Migration Amendment (Clarifying International Obligations for Removal) Regulations 2021,” 5 August 2021, https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/F2021L01078

[53] Ben Doherty, “New Law Allows Australian Government to Indefinitely Detain Refugees,” The Guardian, 13 May 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/may/13/new-law-allows-australian-government-to-indefinitely-detain-refugees-with-criminal-convictions

[54] Ben Doherty, “New Law Allows Australian Government to Indefinitely Detain Refugees,” The Guardian, 13 May 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/may/13/new-law-allows-australian-government-to-indefinitely-detain-refugees-with-criminal-convictions

[55] Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law, “Joint Statement from Refugee Law Organisations in Response to the Migration Amendment (Clarifying International Obligations for Removal) Bill, 202,” 13 May 2021, https://www.kaldorcentre.unsw.edu.au/news/joint-statement-refugee-law-organisations-response-migration-amendment-clarifying-international

[56] Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, “Human Rights Scrutiny Report,” Report 5 of 2021, 29 April 2021, https://uploads.guim.co.uk/2021/05/13/Report_5_of_2021.pdf

[57] Ben Doherty, “New Law Allows Australian Government to Indefinitely Detain Refugees,” The Guardian, 13 May 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/may/13/new-law-allows-australian-government-to-indefinitely-detain-refugees-with-criminal-convictions

[58] Parliament of Australia, “Ending Indefinite and Arbitrary Immigration Detention Bill 2021,” accessed 21 February 2022, https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Bills_Legislation/Bills_Search_Results/Result?bId=r6675

[59] Refugee Council of Australia, “Submission on the Ending Indefinite and Arbitrary Immigration Detention Bill 2021,” 22 February 2022, https://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/submission-on-the-ending-indefinite-and-arbitrary-immigration-detention-bill-2021/ Human Rights Watch, “Submission by Human Rights Watch to the Inquiry on the Ending Indefinite and Arbitrary Immigration Detention Bill 2021,” 27 January 2022, https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/02/15/submission-human-rights-watch-inquiry-ending-indefinite-and-arbitrary-immigration

[60] Refugee Council of Australia, “Recent Changes in Australia’s Refugee Policy,” March 2021 https://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/recent-changes-australian-refugee-policy/6/

[61] Human Rights Law Centre, “Australian Migration Law Amendments: What this means for asylum seeker children,” 17 April 2015, https://www.hrlc.org.au/news/australian-migration-law-amendments-what-this-means-for-asylum-seeker-children

[62] Parliament of Australia, Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, “Chapter 5 – Mandatory Detention Policy,” in Administration and Operation of the Migration Act 1958, 2 March 2006, https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Legal_and_Constitutional_Affairs/Completed_inquiries/2004-07/migration/report/c05

[63] Madeline Gleeson and Natassha Yacoub, “Cruel, costly, and ineffective: The failure of offshore processing,” Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law, August 2021, https://www.kaldorcentre.unsw.edu.au/sites/kaldorcentre.unsw.edu.au/files/Policy_Brief_11_Offshore_Processing.pdf

[64] Sahar Okhovat (Refugee Council of Australia), in correspondence with Michael Flynn (Global Detention Project), 26 January 2022. See also: UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, “Opinions adopted by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention,” https://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Detention/Pages/OpinionsadoptedbytheWGAD.aspx

[65] See, for instance, the Opinions adopted by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, https://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Detention/Pages/OpinionsadoptedbytheWGAD.aspx

[66] Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) Fact Sheet, “It is not Illegal to Seek Asylum,” 2013 https://www.asrc.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/it-not-illegal-seek-asylum.pdf

[67] See, for example, Human Rights Watch, “Australia: 8 Years of Abusive Offshore Asylum Processing,” 15 July 2021, https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/07/15/australia-8-years-abusive-offshore-asylum-processing; Australian Human Rights Commission, “Inspections of Australia’s Immigration Detention Facilities, 2019 Report,” 3 December 2020, https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/asylum-seekers-and-refugees/publications/inspections-australias-immigration-detention; Albin, T., “The Criminalisation of Unauthorised Immigrants: How Does Immigration Detention Become Punishment?” Curtin Law School, 2017, https://espace.curtin.edu.au/handle/20.500.11937/57645

[68] Parliament of Australia, Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, “Chapter 5 – Mandatory Detention Policy,” in Administration and Operation of the Migration Act 1958, 2 March 2006, https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Legal_and_Constitutional_Affairs/Completed_inquiries/2004-07/migration/report/c05

[69] Refugee Council of Australia, “Australia’s Detention Policies: Mandatory Detention,” 20 May 2020, https://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/detention-policies/

[70] Department of Home Affairs (DHA), “Immigration Detention and Community Statistics Summary,” 30 September 2021, https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/research-and-stats/files/immigration-detention-statistics-30-september-2021.pdf

[71] Department of Home Affairs (DHA), “Immigration Detention and Community Statistics Summary,” 30 September 2021, https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/research-and-stats/files/immigration-detention-statistics-30-september-2021.pdf

[72] Australian Human Rights Commission, “Australia’s Immigration Detention Policy and Practice,” in A Last Resort? National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention, April 2004, Chapter 6, https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/6-australias-immigration-detention-policy-and-practice

[73] Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, “Home Affairs Portfolio: Australia Border Force – Program 3.5: Onshore Compliance and Detention: SE21-323 – Immigration Detention – No of Years Held in Detention;” 25 October 2021, https://www.aph.gov.au/api/qon/downloadestimatesquestions/EstimatesQuestion-CommitteeId6-EstimatesRoundId12-PortfolioId20-QuestionNumber323

[74] Refugee Council of Australia, “Australia’s Detention Policies: Mandatory Detention,” 20 May 2020, https://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/detention-policies/

[75] Sahar Okhovat (Refugee Council of Australia), in correspondence with Michael Flynn (Global Detention Project), 26 January 2022. See also: UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, “Opinions adopted by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention,” https://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Detention/Pages/OpinionsadoptedbytheWGAD.aspx

[76] Australian Human Rights Commission, “Inspections of Australia’s Immigration Detention Facilities, 2019 Report,” 3 December 2020, https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/asylum-seekers-and-refugees/publications/inspections-australias-immigration-detention

[77] Refugee Council of Australia, “Australia’s Detention Policies: Mental Health and Conditions,” 20 May 2020, https://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/detention-policies/3/

 [78] University of Melbourne, “High Self-Harm Rates Among Detained Asylum Seekers Prompts Calls for Action,” 14 October 2019 https://about.unimelb.edu.au/newsroom/news/2019/october/high-self-harm-rates-among-detained-asylum-seekers-prompts-calls-for-action

[79] Refugee Council of Australia, “People with Disability in Immigration Detention,” Submission to the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation of People with Disability, 3 November 2021, https://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/People-with-disability-in-detention-RCOA.pdf

[80] United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, “Inquiry on the Serious Allegations of Abuse, Neglect and Self-Harm on Nauru and Manus Island, Submission to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee,” November 2016, https://www.refworld.org/docid/591597934.html

[81] Suresh Sundram and Peter Ventevogel, “The mental health of refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island,” (2017) 390 (10112) The Lancet, 2534-253

[82] Department of Home Affairs (DHA), ‘Immigration Detention and Community Statistics Summary,” 31 August 2021, https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/research-and-stats/files/immigration-detention-statistics-31-august-2021.pdf

[83] Department of Home Affairs (DHA), ‘Immigration Detention and Community Statistics Summary,” 31 August 2021, https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/research-and-stats/files/immigration-detention-statistics-31-august-2021.pdf

[84] Refugee Council of Australia, “Statistics on People in Detention in Australia – Children in Detention,” 11 June 2021, https://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/detention-australia-statistics/4/

[85] Commonwealth of Australia Ombudsman, “Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs: Report into Referred Immigration Cases: Children in Detention,” December 2006, https://www.ombudsman.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0021/26247/investigation_2006_08.pdf

[86] Migration Amendment (Detention Arrangements) Act 2005, https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2005A00079  

[87]C. Evans, “New Directions in Detention- Restoring Integrity to Australia’s Immigration System,” Speech delivered at the Centre for International and Public Law Seminar, Australian National University, Canberra, 29 July 2008, https://tinyurl.com/mr259yra

[88] Australian Human Rights Commission, “DIAC Response to 2008 Immigration Detention Report - Summary of Observations Following the Inspection of Mainland Immigration Detention Report,” accessed 18 June 2021, https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/diac-response-2008-immigration-detention-report-summary-observations-following-inspection

[89] Australian Human Rights Commission, “Mandatory Immigration Detention of Children in Australia: How Far Have We Come and Where to From Here?” 18 November 2010, http://www.hreoc.gov.au/about/media/speeches/speeches_president/2010/20101118_children.html

[90] Australian Human Rights Commission, “2011 Immigration Detention in Leonora,” 2014, https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/2011-immigration-detention-leonora#Heading71

[91] Department of Home Affairs (DHA), “Immigration Detention Statistics Summary,” 31 July 2013, https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/research-and-stats/files/immigration-detention-statistics-july2013.pdf

[92] Australian Human Rights Commission, “Summary Factsheet - The Forgotten Children: National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention 2014,” 18 July 2015, https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/asylum-seekers-and-refugees/publications/summary-factsheet-forgotten-children-national

[93] P. Farrell et al, “The Nauru Files: Cache of 2,000 Leaked Reports Reveal Scale of Abuse of Children in Australian Offshore Detention,” The Guardian, 10 August 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2016/aug/10/the-nauru-files-2000-leaked-reports-reveal-scale-of-abuse-of-children-in-australian-offshore-detention

[94] M. A. Kenny and N. Procter, “As a Young Child is Evacuated from Detention, Could This See the Biloela Tamil Family Go Free?” The Conversation, 8 June 2021, https://theconversation.com/as-a-young-child-is-evacuated-from-detention-could-this-see-the-biloela-tamil-family-go-free-162289

[95] Josh Taylor, “What comes next for the Tamil family from Biloela?”, The Guardian, 15 June 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/jun/16/what-comes-next-for-the-tamil-family-from-biloela

[96] UN Human Rights Committee, “Concluding Observations on the Sixth Periodic Report of Australia,” CCPR/C/AUS/CO/6, 1 December 2017, https://bit.ly/3iMoHjo

[97] UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), “Concluding Observations on the Combined Fifth and Sixth Periodic Reports of Australia,” CRC/C/AUS/CO/5-6, 1 November 2019, https://uhri.ohchr.org/Document/File/565aabfe-16c4-47bc-9476-e15faeda599d/BDB220F2-1156-4F81-8C04-783A4E736A1A

[98] Refugee Council of Australia, “People with Disability in Immigration Detention,” Submission to the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation of People with Disability, 3 November 2021, https://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/People-with-disability-in-detention-RCOA.pdf

[99] Government of Australia, “Migration Act 1958, s.195A,” 8 October 1958, http://classic.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/consol_act/ma1958118/s195a.html

[100] Sahar Okhovat (Refugee Council of Australia), in correspondence with Michael Flynn (Global Detention Project), 9 November 2021

[101] Refugee Council of Australia, “People with Disability in Immigration Detention,” Submission to the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation of People with Disability, 3 November 2021, https://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/People-with-disability-in-detention-RCOA.pdf

[102] Refugee Council of Australia, “People with Disability in Immigration Detention,” Submission to the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation of People with Disability, 3 November 2021, https://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/People-with-disability-in-detention-RCOA.pdf

[103] Refugee Council of Australia, “People with Disability in Immigration Detention,” Submission to the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation of People with Disability, 3 November 2021, https://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/People-with-disability-in-detention-RCOA.pdf

[104] P. Karp and S. Martin, “Asylum Seekers Held in Papua New Guinea Blocked from Talking to Lawyers or Doctors,” The Guardian, 26 August 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/aug/26/asylum-seekers-held-in-papua-new-guinea-blocked-from-talking-to-lawyers-or-doctors

[105] Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC), “Medevac Bill Explained,” accessed 6 July 2021, https://asrc.org.au/medevac_faq/

[106] Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC), “Medevac Bill Explained,” accessed 6 July 2021, https://asrc.org.au/medevac_faq/

[107] Australian Refugee Council, “Australia’s Offshore Processing Regime: The Facts,” 20 May 2020, https://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/offshore-processing-facts/8/

[108] Australian Refugee Council, “Australia’s Offshore Processing Regime: The Facts,” 20 May 2020, https://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/offshore-processing-facts/8/

[109] B. Smee et al, “'Like a Criminal': Inside the Brisbane Hotel Where Medevac Refugees are Detained,” The Guardian, 29 June 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/jun/30/like-a-criminal-inside-the-brisbane-hotel-where-medevac-refugees-are-detained

[110] Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, “Australia: Refugees & Asylum Seekers Held in Hotel Detention Facilities are Subjected to Prison-Like Conditions & Risk COVID-19 Exposure,” 6 September 2020, https://www.business-humanrights.org/en/latest-news/australia-refugees-asylum-seekers-hotel-detention-facilities-are-subjected-prison-conditions-contravention-international-human-rights-standards/

[111] J. Taylor, “Nearly All Refugees Held in Melbourne Hotel Detention to be Released, Advocates Say,” The Guardian, 20 January 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/jan/20/more-than-20-refugees-to-be-released-from-melbourne-hotel-detention-advocates-say

[112] J. Taylor, “Nearly All Refugees Held in Melbourne Hotel Detention to be Released, Advocates Say,” The Guardian, 20 January 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/jan/20/more-than-20-refugees-to-be-released-from-melbourne-hotel-detention-advocates-say

[113] Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, “Home Affairs Portfolio: Australia Border Force – Program 3.5: Onshore Compliance and Detention: SE21-300 – Update of AE21-458 – No: of Transitory Persons in Australia,” 25 October 2021, https://www.aph.gov.au/api/qon/downloadestimatesquestions/EstimatesQuestion-CommitteeId6-EstimatesRoundId12-PortfolioId20-QuestionNumber300

[114] Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, “Home Affairs Portfolio: Australia Border Force – Program 3.5: Onshore Compliance and Detention: SE21-323 – Immigration Detention – No of Years Held in Detention;” 25 October 2021, https://www.aph.gov.au/api/qon/downloadestimatesquestions/EstimatesQuestion-CommitteeId6-EstimatesRoundId12-PortfolioId20-QuestionNumber323

[115] Department of Home Affairs (DHA), “Immigration Detention and Community Statistics Summary,” 31 August 2012, https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/research-and-stats/files/immigration-detention-statistics-31-Aug-2015.pdf

[116] Department of Home Affairs (DHA), “Immigration Detention and Community Statistics Summary,” 31 August 2015, https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/research-and-stats/files/immigration-detention-statistics-31-Aug-2015.pdf

[117] Department of Home Affairs (DHA), “Immigration Detention and Community Statistics Summary,” 31 August 2018, https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/research-and-stats/files/immigration-detention-statistics-august-18.pdf

[118] Department of Home Affairs (DHA), “Immigration Detention and Community Statistics Summary,” 31 August 2021, https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/research-and-stats/files/immigration-detention-statistics-31-august-2021.pdf

[119] Department of Home Affairs (DHA), “Immigration Detention and Community Statistics Summary,” 31 August 2021, https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/research-and-stats/files/immigration-detention-statistics-31-august-2021.pdf

[120] Refugee Council of Australia, “Australia’s Detention Policies: Mandatory Detention,” 20 May 2020, https://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/detention-policies/

[121] Refugee Council of Australia, “Australia’s Detention Policies: Mandatory Detention,” 20 May 2020, https://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/detention-policies/

[122] Australian Human Rights Commission, “Judicial Review of Lawfulness of Detention (2013),” Response to Questionnaire from the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, 8 November 2013, para. 7, https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/legal/submission/judicial-review-lawfulness-detention-2013

[123] Australian Human Rights Commission, “Judicial Review of Lawfulness of Detention (2013),” Response to Questionnaire from the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, 8 November 2013, para. 5, https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/legal/submission/judicial-review-lawfulness-detention-2013

[124] Australian Human Rights Commission, “Judicial Review of Lawfulness of Detention (2013),” Response to Questionnaire from the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, 8 November 2013, para. 21 & 44, https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/legal/submission/judicial-review-lawfulness-detention-2013

[125] See Library of Congress, “Australian High Court Holds Indefinite Immigration Detention is Lawful,,” August 2021, https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2021-08-04/australia-high-court-holds-indefinite-immigration-detention-is-lawful/

[126] Library of Congress, “Australian High Court Holds Indefinite Immigration Detention is Lawful,,” August 2021, https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2021-08-04/australia-high-court-holds-indefinite-immigration-detention-is-lawful/

[127] Library of Congress, “Australian High Court Holds Indefinite Immigration Detention is Lawful,,” August 2021, https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2021-08-04/australia-high-court-holds-indefinite-immigration-detention-is-lawful/

[128] Parliament of Australia, “Migration Amendment (Clarifying International Obligations for Removal) Bill 2021,” 12 May 2021, https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Bills_Legislation/bd/bd2021a/21bd063 - :~:text=The purpose of the Migration,protection obligations under international law.

[129] Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law, “Joint Statement from Refugee Law Organisations in Response to the Migration Amendment (Clarifying International Obligations for Removal) Bill, 202,” 13 May 2021, https://www.kaldorcentre.unsw.edu.au/news/joint-statement-refugee-law-organisations-response-migration-amendment-clarifying-international

[130] Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, “Human Rights Scrutiny Report,” Report 5 of 2021, 29 April 2021, https://uploads.guim.co.uk/2021/05/13/Report_5_of_2021.pdf

[131] Australian Human Rights Commission, “Judicial Review of Lawfulness of Detention (2013),” Response to Questionnaire from the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, 8 November 2013, paras. 27-29, https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/legal/submission/judicial-review-lawfulness-detention-2013

[132] Queensland Government, Human Rights Act 2019, https://www.legislation.qld.gov.au/view/html/inforce/current/act-2019-005#sec.29

[133] Refugee Council of Australia, “Australia’s Detention Policies: Where are People Detained?,” 20 May 2020, https://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/detention-policies/5/#https://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/srss/#

[134] See Sections 195A and 197AB of the Migration Act.

[135] Refugee Council of Australia, “Australia’s Detention Policies: Where are People Detained?,” 20 May 2020, https://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/detention-policies/5/#https://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/srss/#

[136] Department of Home Affairs (DHA), “Immigration Detention and Community Statistics Summary,” 31 August 2021, https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/research-and-stats/files/immigration-detention-statistics-31-august-2021.pdf

[137] Refugee Council of Australia, “Australia’s Detention Policies: Indefinite and Prolonged,” 20 May 2020, https://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/detention-policies/2/

[138] Department of Home Affairs (DHA), “Immigration Detention and Community Statistics Summary,” 31 August 2021, https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/research-and-stats/files/immigration-detention-statistics-31-august-2021.pdf

[139] Australian Border Force, “Immigration Detention in Australia,” accessed on 14 January 2022, https://www.abf.gov.au/about-us/what-we-do/border-protection/immigration-detention/detention-management; Department of Home Affairs, “Who We Are,” accessed on 14 January 2022, https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/about-us/who-we-are/our-history

[140] Department of Home Affairs, “Who We Are,” accessed on 14 January 2022, https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/about-us/who-we-are/our-history

[141] Migration Act 1958 – Sect 5, http://classic.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/consol_act/ma1958118/s5.html

[142] J. Taylor & C. Knaus, “Home Affairs Fought for Three Years to Stop Serco Detention Centre Manual Release,” The Guardian, 6 March 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/mar/06/home-affairs-fought-for-three-years-to-stop-serco-detention-centre-manual-release

[143] Serco, “Student Folder: CSO Induction Training Course,” 2010, https://issuu.com/crikey/docs/serco_manual?printButtonEnabled=false&shareButtonEnabled=false&searchButtonEnabled=false&backgroundColor= percent23222222, p.236-237.

[144] Serco Immigration Services, “Behaviour Management,” Management Guide, 24 February 2015.

[145] Serco Immigration Services, “Death in Detention,” Management Guide, 19 February 2015.

[146] Department of Home Affairs, “Detention Services Manual – Safety and Security Management – Use of Force,” 10 October 2018, https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/foi/files/2020/fa-200100011-document-released.PDF

[147] Department of Home Affairs, “Assessment and Placement of Detainees in Immigration Detention Facilities in Australia,” 2 September 2016, https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/foi/files/2020/fa-200400837-document-released.PDF

[148] Department of Home Affairs, “Detention Services Manual – Detainee Placement – Alternative Places of Detention,” 3 October 2018, https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/foi/files/2020/fa-200400837-document-released.PDF

[149] Australian Human Rights Commission, “Risk Management in Immigration Detention (2019),” May 2019, https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/asylum-seekers-and-refugees/publications/risk-management-immigration-detention-2019

[150] Australian Human Rights Commission, “Risk Management in Immigration Detention (2019),” May 2019, https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/asylum-seekers-and-refugees/publications/risk-management-immigration-detention-2019

[151] Australian Human Rights Commission, “Risk Management in Immigration Detention (2019),” May 2019, https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/asylum-seekers-and-refugees/publications/risk-management-immigration-detention-2019

[152] M. Peterie, “Banning Mobile Phones in Immigration Detention Would Make an Inhumane System Even Crueler,” University of Wollongong Australia, 2 September 2020, https://www.uow.edu.au/media/2020/banning-mobile-phones-in-immigration-detention-would-make-an-inhumane-system-even-crueler.php

[153] Amnesty International, “New Bill to Ban Mobile Phones in Immigration Detention May Breach Mandela Rules,” 19 May 2020, https://www.amnesty.org.au/new-bill-to-ban-mobile-phones-in-immigration-detention-may-breach-mandela-rules/

[154] UN Committee against Torture (CAT), "Sixth Periodic Report Submitted by Australia Under Article 19 of the Convention Pursuant to the Optional Reporting Procedure, Due in 2018," CAT/C/AUC/6, 20 March 2019, https://bit.ly/30iba7C

[155] Human Rights Law Centre, “Australia off track to implement anti-torture protocols by international deadline,” 2 August 2021, https://www.hrlc.org.au/news/2021/8/6/australia-off-track-to-implement-anti-torture-protocols-by-international-deadline

[156] Rachael Knowles, “'A national disgrace': Australia slammed for failing to meet anti-torture obligations,” NITV News, 20 January 2022, https://www.sbs.com.au/nitv/article/2022/01/20/national-disgrace-australia-slammed-failing-meet-anti-torture-obligations 

[157] Refugee Council of Australia, "Submission on the Implementation of OPCAT in Australia: Second Stage of Consultations," 21 September 2017, https://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/opcat-second-stage/

[158] N. Zhou, “Greens Senator Nick McKim Deported from Manus Island,” The Guardian, 20 July 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/jul/20/greens-senator-nick-mckim-deported-from-manus-island

[159] International Ombudsman Institute, “Australia - Statement by the Commonwealth Ombudsman on the Management of COVID-19 Risks in Immigration Detention Facilities,” 11 August 2020, https://www.theioi.org/ioi-news/current-news/statement-by-the-commonwealth-ombudsman-on-the-management-of-covid-19-risks-in-immigration-detention-facilities

[160] Australian Human Rights Commission, “Immigration Detention and Human Rights,” 6 January 2016, https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/asylum-seekers-and-refugees/projects/immigration-detention-and-human-rights#9_3

[161] Australian Red Cross, “Immigration Detention Monitoring,” accessed 7 July 2021, https://www.redcross.org.au/about/how-we-help/migration-support/immigration-detention-monitoring-program

[162] N. Zhou, “Greens Senator Nick McKim Deported from Manus Island,” The Guardian, 20 July 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/jul/20/greens-senator-nick-mckim-deported-from-manus-island

[163] Commonwealth Ombudsman, “All Inspection Reports,” accessed on 31 January 2022, https://www.ombudsman.gov.au/publications/reports/inspection/all-reports

[164] Commonwealth Ombudsman, “Monitoring Immigration Detention: The Ombudsman’s Activities in Overseeing Immigration Detention: January-June 2020,” Report No. 04/2021, 2021, https://www.ombudsman.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0015/112560/Report-No.-04_2021-Monitoring-Immigration-Detention-The-Ombudsmans-activities-in-overseeing-immigraiton-detention-January-June-2020-A2184717.pdf

[165] Australian Human Rights Commission, “Immigration Detention Reports and Photos,” accessed on 31 January 2022, https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/asylum-seekers-and-refugees/immigration-detention-reports-and-photos

[166] Australian Human Rights Commission, “Inspections of Australia’s Immigration Detention Facilities 2019 Report,” 3 December 2020, https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/asylum-seekers-and-refugees/publications/inspections-australias-immigration-detention

[167] Human Rights Council, “Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Australia,” A/HRC/47/8, 24 March 2021, https://undocs.org/A/HRC/47/8

[168] Refugee Council Australia, “Australia’s 2021 Universal Periodic Review by United Nations Human Rights Council: UN Member States Challenge Australia’s Refugee and Asylum Policies,” 22 January 2021, https://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/un-member-states-challenge-australias-refugee-and-asylum-policies/

[169] UN Human Rights Committee, “Concluding Observations on the Sixth Periodic Report of Australia,” 2017, https://uhri.ohchr.org/Document/File/c09dc287-c4db-460e-ae7d-c645bf1f350a/E7484DFE-B7AB-412D-B33E-221707F1B333

[170] UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, “Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants on his Mission to Australia and the Regional Processing Centres in Nauru,” A/HRC/35/25/Add.3, 24 April 2017, https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G17/098/91/PDF/G1709891.pdf?OpenElement

[171] Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Concluding Observations on the eighteenth to twentieth periodic reports of Australia (26 December 2017), https://undocs.org/en/CERD/C/AUS/CO/18-20

[172] UN Committee against Torture (CAT), "Concluding Observations on the Combined Fourth and Fifth Periodic Reports of Australia,” CAT/C/AUS/CO/4-5, 23 December 2014, https://uhri.ohchr.org/Document/File/3eecc7c6-127e-4d7f-8a9f-4fc9ffb00232/99BDEF4D-0DB3-4C71-B0E6-D9BB8B7DF3C6

[173] UN Human Rights Committee, “Views Adopted by the Committee under Article 5 (4) of the Optional Protocol, Concerning Communication No. 2233/2013,” CCPR/C/116/D/2233/2013, 18 April 2016, https://uploads.guim.co.uk/2016/05/17/CCPR-C-116-D-2233-2013-English-cln-auv_(1).pdf

[174] UN Human Rights Committee, “Views Adopted by the Committee under Article 5 (4) of the Optional Protocol, Concerning Communication No. 2233/2013,” CCPR/C/116/D/2233/2013, 18 April 2016, https://uploads.guim.co.uk/2016/05/17/CCPR-C-116-D-2233-2013-English-cln-auv_(1).pdf

[175] B. Doherty, “Australia’s Indefinite Detention of Refugees Illegal, UN Rules,” The Guardian, 17 May 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/law/2016/may/18/australias-indefinite-detention-of-refugees-illegal-un-rules

[176] See, for example: UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), “Concluding Observations on the Eighth Periodic Report of Australia,” CEDAW/C/AUS/CO/8, 25 July 2018, https://uhri.ohchr.org/Document/File/e96fa65b-29fd-4dcc-bb27-2bbab4d9f0ea/6E40B6D4-9133-40F5-A21F-B72E5A260B42; UN Committee against Torture (CAT), "Concluding Observations on the Combined Fourth and Fifth Periodic Reports of Australia,” CAT/C/AUS/CO/4-5, 23 December 2014, https://uhri.ohchr.org/Document/File/3eecc7c6-127e-4d7f-8a9f-4fc9ffb00232/99BDEF4D-0DB3-4C71-B0E6-D9BB8B7DF3C6; UN Human Rights Council, “Report of the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, its Causes and Consequences – On Her Mission to Australia,” A/HRC/38/47/add.1, 17 April 2018, https://uhri.ohchr.org/Document/File/220d0453-b979-43d9-8e2b-0529651ecfdd/4DD4F36E-C494-4FC6-8E9B-624627B7D413; UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), “Concluding Observations on the Combined Fifth and Sixth Periodic Reports of Australia,” CRC/C/AUS/CO/5-6, 1 November 2019, https://uhri.ohchr.org/Document/File/565aabfe-16c4-47bc-9476-e15faeda599d/BDB220F2-1156-4F81-8C04-783A4E736A1A

[177] UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), “Concluding Observations on the Eighth Periodic Report of Australia,” CEDAW/C/AUS/CO/8, 25 July 2018, https://uhri.ohchr.org/Document/File/e96fa65b-29fd-4dcc-bb27-2bbab4d9f0ea/6E40B6D4-9133-40F5-A21F-B72E5A260B42

[178] UN Human Rights, “UN Treaty Body Database – Optional Protocol of the Convention against Torture (CAT-OP),” accessed 7 July 2021, https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/15/TreatyBodyExternal/CountryVisits.aspx?SortOrder=Chronological#

[179] UNHCR, “UNHCR Fact Sheet on Situation of Refugees and Asylum-Seekers on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea,” 5 July 2018, https://www.unhcr.org/en-au/publications/legal/5b3ea38f7/unhcr-fact-sheet-on-situation-of-refugees-and-asylum-seekers-on-manus-island.html

[180] UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD), “Report of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention: Addendum, Visit to Australia, Executive Summary,” E/CN.4/2003/8/Add.2, 24 October 2002, https://undocs.org/E/CN.4/2003/8/Add.2

[181] Sahar Okhovat (Refugee Council of Australia), in correspondence with Michael Flynn (Global Detention Project), 26 January 2022. See also: UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, “Opinions adopted by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention,” https://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Detention/Pages/OpinionsadoptedbytheWGAD.aspx

[182] UN working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD), “Opinion No. 17/2021 concerning Mirand Pjetri (Australia),” Opinions adopted by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention at its ninetieth session, 3–12 May 2021, A/HRC/WGAD/2021/17, https://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Detention/Pages/Opinions90thSession.aspx

[183] UN working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD), “Opinion No. 17/2021 concerning Mirand Pjetri (Australia),” Opinions adopted by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention at its ninetieth session, 3–12 May 2021, A/HRC/WGAD/2021/17, https://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Detention/Pages/Opinions90thSession.aspx

[184] A. Nethery and R.Holman, “Secrecy and Human Rights Abuse in Australia’s Offshore Immigration Detention Centres,” The International Journal of Human Rights, (20), 4 July 2016, https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13642987.2016.1196903

[185] Australian Border Force Act (2015) https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2020C00202

[186] Australia OPCAT Network, “The Implementation of OPCAT in Australia,” January 2020, https://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Implementation_of_OPCAT_in_Australia.pdf

[187] Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), “Migrants / Human Rights: Official Visit to Australia Postponed Due to Protection Concerns,” 25 September 2015, https://ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=16503&LangID=E

[188] See: Department of Home Affairs (DHA), “Visa Statistics,” accessed 8 July 2021, https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/research-and-statistics/statistics/visa-statistics/live/immigration-detention

[189] Australia OPCAT Network, “The Implementation of OPCAT in Australia,” January 2020, https://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Implementation_of_OPCAT_in_Australia.pdf

[190] The Government of the Republic of Nauru, "Visa Requirements," https://bit.ly/KOxOxb

[191] H. Davidson, “Australia Jointly Responsible for Nauru’s Draconian Media Policy, Documents Reveal,” The Guardian, 4 October 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/oct/04/australia-jointly-responsible-for-naurus-draconian-media-policy-documents-reveal

[192] Australia OPCAT Network, “The Implementation of OPCAT in Australia,” January 2020, https://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Implementation_of_OPCAT_in_Australia.pdf

[193] N. Zhou, “Greens Senator Nick McKim Deported from Manus Island,” The Guardian, 20 July 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/jul/20/greens-senator-nick-mckim-deported-from-manus-island

[194] S. Trask, “Video Home Affairs Didn't Want You to See Leads to Calls for Immigration Detention Inquiry,” SBS News, 22 October 2020, https://www.sbs.com.au/news/video-home-affairs-didn-t-want-you-to-see-leads-to-calls-for-immigration-detention-inquiry

[195] Department of Home Affairs (DHA), “Immigration Detention and Community Statistics Summary,” 30 September 2021, https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/research-and-stats/files/immigration-detention-statistics-30-september-2021.pdf

[196] Department of Home Affairs (DHA), “Immigration Detention and Community Statistics Summary,” 30 September 2021, https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/research-and-stats/files/immigration-detention-statistics-30-september-2021.pdf

[197] Department of Home Affairs (DHA), “Immigration Detention and Community Statistics Summary,” 31 December 2013, https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/research-and-stats/files/immigration-detention-statistics-dec2013.pdf

[198] Department of Home Affairs (DHA), “Immigration Detention and Community Statistics Summary,” 30 December 2015, https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/research-and-stats/files/immigration-detention-statistics-30-dec-2015.pdf

[199] Department of Home Affairs (DHA), “Immigration Detention and Community Statistics Summary,” 31 December 2017, https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/research-and-stats/files/immigration-detention-statistics-31-december-17.pdf

[200] Department of Home Affairs (DHA), “Immigration Detention and Community Statistics Summary,” 31 December 2019, https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/research-and-stats/files/immigration-detention-statistics-31-december-2019.pdf

[201] Department of Home Affairs (DHA), “Immigration Detention and Community Statistics Summary,” 30 September 2021, https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/research-and-stats/files/immigration-detention-statistics-30-september-2021.pdf

[202] Flynn, M., and Cannon, C., “The Privatization of Immigration Detention: Towards a Global View,” Global Detention Project, September 2009, https://www.globaldetentionproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/GDP_PrivatizationPaper_Final5.pdf

[203] Mark Akkerman, “Financing Border Wars,” Transnational Institute (TNI), 9 April 2021, https://www.tni.org/en/financingborderwars

[204] Ben Doherty, “Nauru offshore regime to cost Australian taxpayers nearly $220m over next six months,” The Guardian, 3 January 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/jan/24/nauru-offshore-regime-to-cost-australian-taxpayers-nearly-220m-over-next-six-months

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[206] A. Mainsbridge and L. Thomas, “Immigration Detention in Australia: The Loss of Decency and Humanity: Submission to the People’s Inquiry into Immigration Detention,” Public Interest Advocacy Center (PIAC), 17 July 2006, https://www.piac.asn.au/wp-content/uploads/06.07-PIACSub-Peoples_Inquiry.pdf

[207] Refugee Council of Australia, “Offshore Processing Statistics,” 8 January 2022, https://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/operation-sovereign-borders-offshore-detention-statistics/6/

[208] Flynn, M., and Cannon, C., “The Privatization of Immigration Detention: Towards a Global View,” Global Detention Project, September 2009, https://www.globaldetentionproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/GDP_PrivatizationPaper_Final5.pdf

[209] Government of Western Australia, Department of Mines, Industry Regulation, and Safety, Worksafe, “Summary of successful prosecutions: Prosecution Details: G4S Custodial Services Pty Ltd (CAN 050 069 255),” https://prosecutions.commerce.wa.gov.au/prosecutions/view/1349; Parliament of Australia, “The Department’s administration of its contract with Serco,” 12 April 2012, https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Joint/Former_Committees/immigrationdetention/report/c03

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[214] Angus Grigg et al, “Home Affairs Rebuked Over Paladin's $532m Contract,” Financial Review, 28 May 2020, https://www.afr.com/policy/foreign-affairs/home-affairs-rebuked-over-paladin-s-532m-contract-20200528-p54xds

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[216] Mark Akkerman, “Financing Border Wars,” Transnational Institute (TNI), 9 April 2021, https://www.tni.org/en/financingborderwars

[217] A. Crook, “Serco Training Manual: How to ‘Hit’ and ‘Strike’ Detainees,” Crikey, 14 March 2012, https://www.crikey.com.au/2012/03/14/serco-training-manual-how-to-hit-and-strike-asylum-seekers/

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[219] S. Trask, “Video Home Affairs Didn't Want You to See Leads to Calls for Immigration Detention Inquiry,” SBS News, 22 October 2020, https://www.sbs.com.au/news/video-home-affairs-didn-t-want-you-to-see-leads-to-calls-for-immigration-detention-inquiry

[220] P. Young et al, “Challenges to Providing Mental Health Care in Immigration Detention,” Global Detention Project Working Paper No. 19, https://www.globaldetentionproject.org/challenges-to-providing-mental-health-care-in-immigration-detention-global-detention-project-working-paper-no-19

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[222] Refugee Council Australia, “Statistics on People in Detention in Australia: Costs of Detention,” 8 January 2022, https://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/detention-australia-statistics/9/

[223] Refugee Council Australia, “Offshore Processing Statistics,” 8 January 2022, https://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/operation-sovereign-borders-offshore-detention-statistics/6/

[224] Refugee Council Australia, “The Federal Budget: What it Means for Refugees and People Seeking Humanitarian Protection,” 7 October 2020, https://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/federal-budget-summary/

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[226] M. Flynn, “There and Back Again: On the Diffusion of Immigration Detention,” Journal on Migration and Human Security, July 2014, https://cmsny.org/publications/jmhs-there-and-back-again/; D. Ghezelbash Refuge Lost: Asylum Law in an Interdependent World, Cambridge University Press, 2018

[227] B. Doherty, “Australia signs deal with Nauru to keep asylum seeker detention centre open indefinitely,” The Guardian, 24 September 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/sep/24/australia-signs-deal-with-nauru-to-keep-asylum-seeker-detention-centre-open-indefinitely

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[242] C. Bailliet, “The Tampa Case and its Impact on Burden Sharing at Sea,” Human Rights Quarterly, (25), 2003.

[243] Parliament of Australia, “Immigration Detention in Australia,” updated 20 March 2013, https://www.aph.gov.au/about_parliament/parliamentary_departments/parliamentary_library/pubs/bn/2012-2013/detention

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[247] “Australian Doctors Call for Refugees to be Released Amid Coronavirus Fears,” SBS News, 2 April 2020, https://www.sbs.com.au/news/australian-doctors-call-for-refugees-to-be-released-amid-coronavirus-fears/55c06ac2-3d99-4a44-84e0-567d2946fea2

[248] A. Vogl et. al. “COVID-19 and the relentless harms of Australia’s punitive immigration detention regime,” Crime, Media, Culture, 2021, Vol, 17 (1), 43-51, https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/1741659020946178

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[257] H. Davidson, “Inside Christmas Island: The Australian Detention Centre with Four Asylum Seekers and a $26m Price Tag,” The Guardian, 25 January 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/jan/26/inside-christmas-island-the-australian-detention-centre-with-four-asylum-seekers-and-a-26m-price-tag; N. Hondros and M. Bungard, “ABF Confirms Re-Opening of Christmas Island Detention Centre During Pandemic,” The Sydney Morning Herald, 4 August 2020, https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/asylum-seeker-activists-slam-christmas-island-detention-centre-re-opening-20200804-p55ijn.html

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[259] Australian Border Force, “Tweet, 5 August 2020,” Twitter, 5 August 2020, https://bit.ly/3gcHhj6

[260] Senate Standing Committee On Legal And Constitutional Affairs, “Budget Estimates, 24-25 May 2021, Home Affairs Portfolio Australian Border Force, Program 3.5: Onshore Compliance and Detention, BE21-395 - Christmas Island Detainees - Previously held Protection, Refugee or Humanitarian Visa,” https://www.aph.gov.au/api/qon/downloadestimatesquestions/EstimatesQuestion-CommitteeId6-EstimatesRoundId11-PortfolioId20-QuestionNumber395

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[263] Australian Human Rights Commission, “Management of COVID-19 Risks in Immigration Detention,” 16 June 2021, https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/asylum-seekers-and-refugees/publications/management-covid-19-risks-immigration-detention

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L. Carroll, “Villawood Detention Centre Staff Member Tests Positive for COVID,” Sydney Morning Herald, 12 September 2021, https://www.smh.com.au/national/australia-news-live-foreign-airlines-at-risk-of-pulling-out-as-victorian-outbreak-accelerates-20210912-p58qv6.html

[268] Ben Doherty, “A Covid incubator’: outbreak in Melbourne refugee detention hotel grows as vaccination rate lags,” The Guardian, 18 October 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/oct/19/a-covid-incubator-outbreak-in-melbourne-refugee-detention-hotel-grows-as-vaccination-rates-lag

[269] Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs - Supplementary Budget Estimates, “Program 3.5: Onshore Compliance and Detention,” SE21-280 – Onshore Detention – COVID Vaccination Full or Partial, 25 October 2021, https://www.aph.gov.au/api/qon/downloadestimatesquestions/EstimatesQuestion-CommitteeId6-EstimatesRoundId12-PortfolioId20-QuestionNumber280

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[273] Australian Border Force, “Immigration Detention in Australia: Detention Facilities,” accessed on 17 January 2022, https://www.abf.gov.au/about-us/what-we-do/border-protection/immigration-detention/detention-facilities; Refugee Council Australia, “Statistics on People in Detention in Australia: Alternatives Places of Detention,” 8 January 2022, https://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/detention-australia-statistics/3/

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[276] H. Davidson, “Inside Christmas Island: The Australian Detention Centre with Four Asylum Seekers and a $26m Price Tag,” The Guardian, 25 January 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/jan/26/inside-christmas-island-the-australian-detention-centre-with-four-asylum-seekers-and-a-26m-price-tag; N. Hondros and M. Bungard, “ABF Confirms Re-Opening of Christmas Island Detention Centre During Pandemic,” The Sydney Morning Herald, 4 August 2020, https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/asylum-seeker-activists-slam-christmas-island-detention-centre-re-opening-20200804-p55ijn.html

[277] Australian Human Rights Commission, “Immigration Detention and Human Rights,” 6 January 2016, https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/asylum-seekers-and-refugees/projects/immigration-detention-and-human-rights

[278] Australian Human Rights Commission, “2008 Immigration Detention Report: Summary of Observations Following Visits to Australia’s Immigration Detention Facilities,” 18 November 2010, www.hreoc.gov.au/human_rights/immigration/idc2008.html#Heading847.

[279] Australian Border Force, “Immigration Detention in Australia,” 25 May 2020, https://www.abf.gov.au/about-us/what-we-do/border-protection/immigration-detention/detention-facilities

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[283] Department of Home Affairs, “Response to the Australian Human Rights Report on COVID-19 Risks in Immigration Detention;” accessed on 31 January 2022, https://humanrights.gov.au/sites/default/files/homeaffairs_response_covid-19_immigration_detention_2021_0.pdf

[284] Australian Human Rights Commission, “Australian Human Rights Commission Inspection of Villawood Immigration Detention Centre: Report,” 10-12 April 2017, https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/asylum-seekers-and-refugees/publications/inspection-villawood-immigration-detention-centre

[285] Australian Human Rights Commission, “Australian Human Rights Commission Inspection of Villawood Immigration Detention Centre: Report,” 10-12 April 2017, https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/asylum-seekers-and-refugees/publications/inspection-villawood-immigration-detention-centre

[286] Australian Human Rights Commission, “Australian Human Rights Commission Inspection of Villawood Immigration Detention Centre: Report,” 10-12 April 2017, https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/asylum-seekers-and-refugees/publications/inspection-villawood-immigration-detention-centre

[287] Australian Human Rights Commission, “Inspections of Australia’s Immigration Detention Facilities 2019 Report,” December 2020, https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/asylum-seekers-and-refugees/publications/inspections-australias-immigration-detention, p.23.

[288] Australian Human Rights Commission, “Australian Human Rights Commission Inspection of Perth Immigration Detention Centre,” 2018, https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/asylum-seekers-and-refugees/publications/australian-human-rights-commission-inspection-0

[289] Australian Human Rights Commission, “Australian Human Rights Commission Inspection of Yongah Hill Immigration Detention Centre,” 2017, https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/asylum-seekers-and-refugees/publications/inspection-yongah-hill-immigration-detention

[290] Australian Human Rights Commission, “2008 Immigration Detention Report: Summary of Observations Following Visits to Australia’s Immigration Detention Facilities,” 2008, http://www.hreoc.gov.au/human_rights/immigration/idc2008.html#Heading847

[291] Australian Human Rights Commission, “Australian Human Rights Commission Inspection of Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation,” 2017, https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/asylum-seekers-and-refugees/publications/inspection-melbourne-immigration-transit

[292] Australian Border Force, “Immigration Detention in Australia,” 25 May 2020, https://www.abf.gov.au/about-us/what-we-do/border-protection/immigration-detention/detention-facilities

[293] L. Martin, “Young Afghan Man Tries to Set Himself on Fire at Melbourne Detention Centre,” The Guardian, 15 July 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/jul/15/young-afghan-man-tries-to-set-himself-on-fire-at-melbourne-detention-centre

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[295] Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, “Program 1.3: Onshore Compliance and Detention: AE21-346 – Alternative Places of Detention (APODs) in Australia Since 2018,” 22 March 2021.

[296] Australian Human Rights Commission, “Inspections of Australia’s Immigration Detention Facilities, 2019 Report,” December 2020, https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/asylum-seekers-and-refugees/publications/inspections-australias-immigration-detention

[297] Department of Home Affairs (DHA), “Immigration Detention and Community Statistics Summary,” 30 September 2021, https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/research-and-stats/files/immigration-detention-statistics-30-september-2021.pdf

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[301] Australian Human Rights Commission, “Inspections of Australia’s Immigration Detention Facilities, 2019 Report,” December 2020, https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/asylum-seekers-and-refugees/publications/inspections-australias-immigration-detention

[302] Sahar Okhovat (Refugee Council of Australia), in correspondence with Michael Flynn (Global Detention Project), 26 January 2022.

[303] B. Doherty, “Everyone Asks About Novak but Mehdi Has Languished for Nine Years in Australian Immigration Detention,” The Guardian, 7 January 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/jan/07/everyone-asks-about-novak-but-mehdi-has-languished-for-nine-years-in-australian-immigration-detention?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

[304] E. Gillespie & A. Lucente, “Asylum Seekers in Melbourne Detention Say They Were Served ‘Maggots and Mould’ for Dinner,” SBS News, 29 December 2021, https://www.sbs.com.au/news/asylum-seekers-in-melbourne-detention-say-they-were-served-maggots-and-mould-for-dinner/3e4d70d3-bb5e-4faf-b11b-99a80b9407c1

[305] A. Britton, “Investigation Launched After Fires Break Out at Melbourne Detention Hotel,” SBS News, 23 December 2021, https://www.sbs.com.au/news/investigation-launched-after-fires-break-out-at-melbourne-detention-hotel/726af640-5134-4ad1-8ffa-f5ca02f8c079

[306] S. Vivian & J. Hislop, “Darwin Hotel Refugees Plea for Community Release as Doctors Lament ‘Deteriorating Health’ Inside Confindement,” ABC News, 9 February 2021, https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-02-10/darwin-medevac-refugees-plea-for-temporary-community-release/13131922

[307] M. Dennien, “Remaining Refugees ‘Forced’ From Inner-Brisbane Hotel Site,” Brisbane Times, 16 April 2021, https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/national/queensland/remaining-refugees-moved-from-inner-brisbane-hotel-site-20210416-p57jxa.html; M. Boseley, “Kangaroo Point Hotel: 19 Asylum Seekers Forcibly Removed in Brisbane as Police Clash with Protesters,” The Guardian, 17 April 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/apr/17/asylum-seekers-forcibly-removed-from-brisbane-hotel-supporters-say

[308] A. Silva, “I Still Have Nightmares: Surviving Australia’s Kangaroo Point,” Al-Jazeera, 18 April 2021, https://www.aljazeera.com/features/2021/4/18/i-still-have-nightmares-surviving-australias-kangaroo-point

[309] M. Truu, “More Asylum Seekers Released From Melbourne Immigration Detention, a Week After Dozens Freed,” SBS News, 28 January 2021, https://www.sbs.com.au/news/more-asylum-seekers-released-from-melbourne-immigration-detention-a-week-after-dozens-freed/79e15d0c-0414-415f-bbfe-57780c032484

[310] Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, “Release of 33 Refugees From Detention Welcomed, But Show Arbitrary Nature of Still Detaining Over 90,” 24 August 2021, https://asrc.org.au/2021/08/24/release-of-33-refugees-from-detention-welcomed-but-shows-arbitrary-nature-of-still-detaining-over-90/

[311] Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, “Release of 33 Refugees From Detention Welcomed, But Show Arbitrary Nature of Still Detaining Over 90,” 24 August 2021, https://asrc.org.au/2021/08/24/release-of-33-refugees-from-detention-welcomed-but-shows-arbitrary-nature-of-still-detaining-over-90/

[312] B. Doherty, “Australia to end offshore processing in Papua New Guinea,” 6 October 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/oct/06/australia-to-end-offshore-processing-in-papua-new-guinea

[313] AFP, “Nauru says immigrants will no longer be detained,” AFP, 2 October 2015, https://news.yahoo.com/nauru-says-immigrants-no-longer-detained-060000691.html; Australian Border Force, “Operation Sovereign Borders Monthly Update: March 2019,” 9 April 2019, https://web.archive.org/web/20200814123127/https://newsroom.abf.gov.au/releases/operation-sovereign-borders-monthly-update-march-2019

[314] Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network and the Global Detention Project, “Joint Submission to the Universal Periodic Review: Papua New Guinea,” 26 March 2021, https://www.globaldetentionproject.org/joint-submission-to-the-universal-periodic-review-papua-new-guinea; Refugee Council of Australia and Amnesty International, “Until When: the Forgotten Men on Manus Island,” November 2018, https://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Until_When_AIA_RCOA_FINAL.pdf, pp. 12-13 &5

ENFORCEMENT DATA

Total Migration Detainee Entries: Flow (year)
5,019
2019
Total Migration Detainees: Flow + Stock (year)
5,019
2019
9,801
2018
9,739
2017
8,588
2015
15,694
2014
30,895
2013
12,967
2012
8,874
2011
8,749
2010
3,977
2009
Reported Population (Day)
1,459
2021
1,440
2021
1,513
2020
1,450
2019
6,122
2013
Countries of Origin (Year)
New Zealand (Iran) Vietnam Sudan India
2021
Iran (New Zealand) Vietnam Sudan Sri Lanka
2020
Iran (New Zealand) Sri Lanka Sudan Iraq
2019
Total Number of Children Placed in Immigration Detention (Year)
145
2017
154
2016
1,700
2013
703
2003
1,696
2002
1,923
2001
976
2000
Number of Accompanied Children Placed in Immigration Detention (Year)
976
2000
Number of Detainees Referred to ATDs (Year)
587
2015
1,566
2014
Number of Deportations/Forced Removals (Year)
32
2021
Number of Voluntary Returns & Deportations (Year)
1,002
2021
Total Immigration Detention Capacity
6,252 (8693)
2013
Criminal Prison Population (Year)
42,403
2021
39,152
2016
30,775
2013
29,383
2012
Percentage of Foreign Prisoners (Year)
17.1
2021
18.7
2016
Prison Population Rate (per 100,000 of National Population)
165
2021
162
2016
133
2013
130
2012

POPULATION DATA

Population (Year)
25,500,000
2020
23,969,000
2015
22,900,000
2012
International Migrants (Year)
7,549,270
2019
6,763,000
2015
6,468,600
2013
International Migrants as Percentage of Population (Year)
28.2
2015
27.7
2013
Refugees (Year)
76,768
2019
56,933
2018
48,482
2017
42,107
2016
36,917
2015
34,503
2014
30,083
2012
Ratio of Refugees Per 1000 Inhabitants (Year)
1.74
2016
1.51
2015
1.34
2012
1.1
2011
New Asylum Applications (Year)
42,232
2019
33,280
2016
15,202
2015
15,790
2012
Refugee Recognition Rate (Year)
21
2014
Stateless Persons (Year)
132
2018
52
2017
0
2016
0
2014

SOCIO-ECONOMIC DATA & POLLS

Gross Domestic Product per Capita (in USD)
61,925
2014
67,468
2013
67,036
2012
Remittances to the Country
2,291,600
2015
1,700
2013
Remittances From the Country
3,776
2010
Unemployment Rate
2014
2009
Net Official Development Assistance (ODA) (in Millions USD)
5,403
2012
4,983
2011
Human Development Index Ranking (UNDP)
2 (Very high)
2015
2 (Very high)
2014
2 (Very high)
2012
World Bank Rule of Law Index
95 (-2.5)
2012
94 (-1.1)
2011
95 (-0.8)
2010

B. Attitudes and Perceptions

Detention for deterrence
"Some submitters [to the Parliamentary Committee] expressed the belief that the harsh and indefinite conditions of detention at the RPCs represented a deliberate policy on the part of the Australian Government to deter others from the attempt to come to Australia by boat."
2016

MIGRATION-RELATED DETENTION

Does the Country Detain People for Migration, Asylum, or Citizenship Reasons?
Yes
2022
Does the Country Have Specific Laws that Provide for Migration-Related Detention?
Yes
1958

LEGAL & REGULATORY FRAMEWORK

Do Migration Detainees Have Constitutional Guarantees?
No (The Australian Constitution) 1900 1977
1900 1986
Detention-Related Legislation
Migration Act, 1958 (1958) 2019
1958
Additional Legislation
Migration Amendment (Urgent Medical Treatment) Bill 2018 (2019)
2019
Maritime Powers Act 2013 (No. 15,2013) (2013)
2013
Migration Amendment (Unauthorised Maritime Arrivals and Other Measures) Act 2013, No. 35, 2013 (2013)
2013
Australian Border Force Act 2015, No. 40, 2015 (2015)
2015

GROUNDS FOR MIGRATION-RELATED DETENTION

Immigration-Status-Related Grounds
Detention to prevent unauthorised entry at the border
2019
Detention for unauthorised entry or stay
2019
Detention to establish/verify identity and nationality
2019
Has the Country Decriminalised Immigration-Related Violations?
Yes
2013
Children & Other Vulnerable Groups
Unaccompanied minors (Provided) Yes
2019
Accompanied minors (Provided) Yes
2019
Mandatory Detention
Yes (All apprehended non-citizens who do not have proper documentation)
2014
Yes (Persons who request asylum upon arrival at a port of entry)
2014
Yes (Executive discretion)
1992

LENGTH OF MIGRATION-RELATED DETENTION

Maximum Length of Administrative Immigration Detention
No Limit
2013
Average Length of Immigration Detention
Number of Days: 696
2021
Number of Days: 616
2020
Number of Days: 509
2019
Number of Days: 412
2015
Number of Days: 350
2014
Number of Days: 79
2012
Maximum Length of Detention of Asylum-Seekers
No Limit
2006
Recorded Length of Immigration Detention
Number of Days: 2555
2005

MIGRATION-RELATED DETENTION INSTITUTIONS

Custodial Authorities
(Department of Immigration and Border Protection) Immigration or Citizenship
2008
(Department of Immigration and Border Protection) Immigration or Citizenship
2007
(Department of Immigration and Border Protection) Immigration or Citizenship
2005
(Department of Immigration and Border Protection) Immigration or Citizenship
2004
(Department of Immigration and Border Protection) Immigration or Citizenship
2002
Apprehending Authorities
Australian Border Force (Ministry of Home Affairs) (Immigration agency)
Detention Facility Management
Immigration and Border Protection Ministry, Australia (Governmental)
2015
Australian Ministry of Immigration and Border Protection (Governmental)
2015
Group 4 Falck Global Solutions Limited Australia (Private For-Profit)
2008
Group 4 Falck Global Solutions Limited (Private For-Profit)
2008
Group 4 Falck Global Solutions Limited Australia (Private For-Profit)
2007
Queensland Department of Corrective Service (Governmental)
2005
Australasian Correctional Management Pty Ltd (Private For-Profit)
2004
Australasian Correctional Management Pty Ltd (Private For-Profit)
2002
Formally Designated Detention Estate?
Yes (Dedicated immigration detention facilities)
2022
Types of Detention Facilities Used in Practice
Immigration detention centre (Administrative)
Transit centre (Administrative)
Offshore detention centre (Administrative)
Immigration detention centre (Ad hoc)
2022

PROCEDURAL STANDARDS & SAFEGUARDS

Procedural Standards
Independent review of detention (No) No
2020
Information to detainees (Yes)
2019
Does the Law Stipulate Consideration of Non-Custodial Measures (ATDs) before Imposing Detention?
Immigration Law: No
Asylum/Refugee Law: No
2022
Types of Non-Custodial Measures (ATDs) Provided in Law
Designated non-secure housing (Yes) Yes
2020
Supervised release and/or reporting (Yes) Yes
2020

DETENTION MONITORS

Types of Authorised Detention Monitoring Institutions
Australian Human Rights Commission, (formerly known as the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission) (National Human Rights Institution (or Ombudsperson) (NHRI))
2013
Commonwealth Ombudsman (National Human Rights Institution (or Ombudsperson) (NHRI))
2013
Is the NHRI Recognised as Independent by the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions?
Yes
2013
Does NHRI Visit Immigration Detention Centres?
Yes
2013
Does NHRI Receive Complaints?
Yes
2013
Does NHRI Release Reports on Immigration Detention?
Yes
2013
Does the NPM Visit Immigration Detention Centres?
Yes
2022
Does NPM Release Reports on Immigration Detention?
Yes
2022

TRANSPARENCY

Is There a Publicly Accessible Official List of Currently Operating Detention Centres?
Partial
2022
Does the Country Provide Annual Statistics of the Numbers of People Placed in Migration-Related Detention?
Yes
2022
Is Detention Data Disaggregated?
Yes
2022
Does the Country Have Access to Information Legislation?
Yes
1982

READMISSION/RETURN/EXTRADITION AGREEMENTS

COVID-19

HEALTH CARE

COVID-19 DATA

Has the country released immigration detainees as a result of the pandemic?
No
2021

Has the country used legal "alternatives to detention" as part of pandemic detention releases?
Unknown
2021

Has the country Temporarily Ceased or Restricted Issuing Detention Orders?
No
2021

Has the Country Adopted These Pandemic-Related Measures for People in Immigration Detention?
COVID-19 Testing: NoVaccinations: YesProvision of Masks: YesProvision of Hygiene Supplies: YesSuspension of Visits: Unknown
2021

Has the Country Locked-Down Previously "Open" Reception Facilities, Shelters, Refugee Camps, or Other Forms of Accommodation for Migrant Workers or Other Non-Citizens?
Yes
2021

Have cases of COVID-19 been reported in immigration detention facilities or any other places used for immigration detention purposes?
Yes
2021

Has the Country Ceased or Restricted Deportations/Removals During any Period After the Onset of the Pandemic?
No
2021

Has the Country Released People from Criminal Prisons During the Pandemic?
No
2021

Have Officials Blamed Migrants, Asylum Seekers, or Refugees for the Spread of COVID-19?
Yes
2020

Has the Country Restricted Access to Asylum Procedures?
Yes
2020

Has the Country Commenced a National Vaccination Campaign?
Yes
2021

Have Populations of Concern Been Included/Excluded From the National Vaccination Campaign?
People in Immigration Custody (including legal in "alternatives to detention" or at open reception centres): IncludedRefugees: IncludedUndocumented Migrants: UnknownAsylum Seekers: IncludedStateless People: Included
2021

INTERNATIONAL TREATIES

International Treaties Ratified
Ratification Year
Observation Date
OPCAT, Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
2017
2017
OPCRPD, Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
2009
2009
CRPD, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
2008
2008
CTOCTP, Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children
2005
2005
CTOCSP, Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime
2004
2004
CRC, Convention on the Rights of the Child
1990
1990
CAT, Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
1989
1989
CEDAW, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women
1983
1983
ICCPR, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
1980
1980
ICESCR, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
1975
1975
ICERD, International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination
1975
1975
PCRSR, Protocol to the Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees
1973
1973
CRSSP, Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons
1973
1973
VCCR, Vienna Convention on Consular Relations
1973
1973
CRSR, Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees
1954
1954
Ratio of relevant international treaties ratified
Ratio: 15/19
Treaty Reservations
Reservation Year
Observation Date
CRC Article 37 1990
1990
1990
ICCPR Article 10 1980
1980
1980
ICCPR Article 14 1980
1980
1980
Individual Complaints Procedures
Acceptance Year
CRPD, Optional Protocol to o the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2008
2008
ICCPR, First Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966 1991
1991
CAT, declaration under article 22 of the Convention 1989
1989
CEDAW, Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, 1999 1983
1983
ICERD, declaration under article 14 of the Convention 1975
1975
Ratio of Complaints Procedures Accepted
Observation Date
5/6
5/6
Treaty Body Decisions on Individual Complaints
Observation Date
Human Rights Committee Bakhtiyari v Australia, UN Human Rights Committee Communication No 1069/2002, CCPR/C/79/D/1069/2002, 29 October 2003, para 9.7
2003
Relevant Recommendations Issued by Treaty Bodies
Recommendation Year
Observation Date
Committee on the Rights of the Child §49. The Committee urges the State party: (a) To apply a child-friendly and multisectoral approach to avoid the retraumatization of child victims and ensure that cases are promptly recorded and investigated and that perpetrators are prosecuted and duly sanctioned; (b) To put in place child-sensitive mechanisms to facilitate and promote the reporting of cases and ensure that complaints mechanisms are child friendly and available both online and offline, paying particular attention to alternative care settings, detention facilities and locations for asylum-seeking, refugee and migrant children; (c) To ensure that the national mechanism for the prevention of torture has access to places where children are placed; (d) To ensure the development of programmes and policies for the full recovery and social reintegration of child victims; (e) To guarantee child victims ’ access to adequate procedures to seek compensation for damages; (f) To ensure that all child victims and witnesses of crime have access to adequate support, irrespective of whether they assist in police investigations, prosecutions or trials. 2019
2019
Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women §50 [...] (b) Increase efforts and resources to address the deteriorating mental health situation of women and girls, in particular young mothers, indigenous women, women with disabilities, women in detention, migrant women and their daughters, including those born in the State party , lesbian, bisexual and transgender women and intersex persons, and reinforce preventive measures; (c) Allocate sufficient funding to the national disability insurance scheme to extend coverage for mental health services to women and girls with all types of mental health disorders and disabilities; (d) Ensure access to non-discriminatory health services for indigenous women, migrant women and their daughters, including those born in the State party , lesbian, bisexual and transgender women and intersex persons; ... §54 [...](a) Stop intercepting and returning asylum-seeking women and girls arriving by sea and guarantee that they can claim asylum on its territory; (b) Stop offshore processing in Nauru and the processing of asylum claims at sea, and ensure that all women and girls seeking asylum have access to gender-sensitive and fair refugee status determination processes within the territory of the State party and to legal representation and legal remedies; (c) Repeal provisions on the mandatory detention of asylum seekers and ensure, in the interim, that detention is used only as a last resort; (d) Guarantee that all refugee and asylum-seeking women and girls who are under the responsibility of the State party have access to comprehensive, adequate and accessible sexual and reproductive health services and information, including to emergency contraception and abortion services, on its territory; (e) Uphold the fundamental right to family unity; (f) Guarantee that refugee and asylum-seeking women and girls have unconditional access to gender-, age-, culture- and language-appropriate social, education, mental and physical health services on the territory of the State party; (g) Reinstate access to status resolution support services for all asylum-seeking women and girls; (h) Ensure that all immigration facilities under the responsibility of the State party adhere to standards for the prevention of sexual and gender-based violence, investigate all complaints of sexual and physical violence against women and girls, including rape, bring perpetrators to justice and guarantee that they are punished, and provide redress and adequate compensation to victims; (i) Take the measures necessary to grant immediate access to its territory to all women who have been granted international protection. 2018
2018
Committee on the Rights of the Child § 45: The Committee urges the State party immediately: (a) To amend the Immigration (Guardianship of Children) Act of 1946 (Commonwealth of Australia) to create an independent position of guardian for children; (b) To amend the Migration Act (Commonwealth of Australia) to prohibit the detention of asylum-seeking, refugee and migrant children; (c) To amend the Migration Act and the Maritime Powers Act to ensure respect for the State party's non- refoulement obligations, particularly in the course of maritime interceptions and returns; (d) To enact legislation prohibiting the detention of children and their families in regional processing countries; (e) To ensure that the best interests of the child are a primary consideration in all decisions and agreements related to the relocation of asylum-seeking, refugee and migrant children within Australia or to other countries; (f) To ensure that children who have been detained in regional processing countries have access to adequate child protection, education and health services, including mental health services; (g) To review migration laws and policies with a view to withdrawing disability as a criterion for rejecting immigration requests; (h) To implement durable solutions, including financial and other support, for all refugee and migrant children to ensure their early rehabilitation, reintegration and sustainable resettlement; (i) To introduce adequate mechanisms for monitoring the well-being of children involved in asylum, refugee and migration processes. 2019
2019
Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination 33. The Committee recommends that the State party: (a) Repeal the mandatory detention provisions in the Migration Act 1958, find alternatives to the detention of all migrants and asylum seekers arriving in Australia without a visa, ensure detention is used only as a last resort and ensure regular judicial review of detention decisions; (b) Ensure that all asylum seekers, regardless of their mode of arrival, their ethnicity or country of origin can obtain access to a fair refugee status determination procedure. 2017
2017
Human Rights Committee §36. The State party should: (a) End its offshore transfer arrangements and cease any further transfers of refugees or asylum seekers to Nauru, Papua New Guinea or any other “regional processing country”; (b) Take all the measures necessary to protect the rights of refugees and asylum seekers affected by the closure of processing centres, including against non-refoulement, ensure their transfer to Australia or their relocation to other appropriate safe countries, and closely monitor their situation after the closure of the centres; (c) Consider closing down the Christmas Island detention centre. ... §38 [...] (a) significantly reduce the period of initial mandatory detention and ensure that any detention beyond that initial period is justified as reasonable, necessary and proportionate in the light of the individual’s circumstances and is subject to periodic judicial review; (b) expand the use of alternatives to detention; (c) consider introducing a time limit on the overall duration of immigration detention; (d) provide for a meaningful right to appeal against the indefinite detention of individuals who have received adverse security assessments from the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, including a fair opportunity to refute the claims against them; and (e) ensure that children and unaccompanied minors are not detained, except as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time, taking into account their best interests as a primary consideration with regard to the duration and conditions of detention and their special need for care. The State party should address the conditions of detention in immigration facilities, provide adequate mental health care, refrain from applying force or physical restraints against migrants and ensure that all allegations of use of force against them are promptly investigated, that perpetrators are prosecuted and, if convicted, punished with appropriate sanctions, and that victims are offered reparation. 2017
2017
Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights §25 [...] implement without delay the new “seven values” in policy, and carry out the Australian Human Rights Commission's recommendations adopted in its 2008 Immigration Detention Report, including the repeal of the mandatory immigration detention system and the closure of the Christmas Island detention Centre. 2009
2009
Committee against Torture

§11 [..]The State party should strengthen its efforts to bring the conditions of detention in all places of deprivation of liberty into line with relevant international norms and standards, including the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners and the United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders (Bangkok Rules), in particular by: [...] (b) ensuring that adequate somatic and mental health care is provided for all persons deprived of their liberty, including those in immigration detention.

§16. [...] The State party should adopt the necessary measures with a view to considering: (a) repealing the provisions establishing the mandatory detention of persons entering its territory irregularly; (b) ensuring that detention should be only applied as a last resort, when determined to be strictly necessary and proportionate in each individual case, and for as short a period as possible; and (c) establishing, in case it is necessary and proportionate that a person should be detained, statutory time limits for detention and access to an effective judicial remedy to review the necessity of the detention. It should also ensure that persons in need of international protection, children and families with children are not detained or, if at all, only as a measure of last resort, after alternatives to detention have been duly examined and exhausted, when determined to be necessary and proportionate in each individual case, and for as short a period as possible. The State party should also continue and redouble its efforts with a view to expanding the use of alternatives to closed immigration detention. It should also adopt all necessary measures to ensure that stateless persons whose asylum claims were refused and refugees with adverse security or character assessments are not held in detention indefinitely, including by resorting to non-custodial measures and alternatives to closed immigration detention.

§17 [...] The State party should adopt the necessary measures to guarantee that all asylum seekers or persons in need of international protection who are under its effective control are afforded the same standards of protection against violations of the Convention regardless of their mode and/or date of arrival. The transfers to the regional processing centres in Papua New Guinea (Manus Island) and Nauru, which in 2013 were deemed by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees not to provide “humane conditions of treatment in detention”, do not release the State party from its obligations under the Convention, including prompt, thorough and individual examination of the applicability of article 3 in each case and redress and rehabilitation when appropriate.

2014
2014
Committee on the Rights of the Child

§32 [...] pay particular attention to ensuring that its policies and procedures for children in asylum seeking, refugee and/or immigration detention give due primacy to the principle of the best interests of the child. 

§81 [...] (a) Reconsider its policy of detaining children who are asylum-seeking, refugees and/or irregular migrants; and, ensure that if immigration detention is imposed, it is subject to time limits and judicial review; [...] (d) Adhere to its High Court ruling in Plaintiff M70/2011 v. Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, and, inter alia, ensure adequate legal protections for asylum seekers and conclusively abandon its attempted policy of so-called “offshore processing” of asylum claims and “refugee swaps”; and evaluate reports of hardship suffered by children returned to Afghanistan without a best interests determination.

2012
2012
Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

§24 [...] (a) Review its mandatory detention regime for asylum-seekers with a view to finding an alternative to detention, ensuring that the detention of asylum-seekers is always a measure of last resort and is limited by statute to the shortest time reasonably necessary, and that all forms of arbitrary detention are avoided;

2010
2010
Human Rights Committee

526. The Committee considers that the mandatory detention under the Migration Act of“unlawful non-citizens”, including asylum seekers, raises questions of compliance with article 9, paragraph 1, ofthe Covenant, which provides that no person shall be subjected to arbitrary detention. The Committee is concerned at the State party’s policy, in this context of mandatory detention, of not informing the detainees oftheir right to seek legal adviceand of not allowing access of non-governmental human rights organizations to the detainees in order to inform them of this right. 

527. The Committee urges the State party to reconsider its policy of mandatory detention of“unlawful non-citizens”with a view to instituting alternative mechanisms of maintaining an orderly immigration process. The Committee recommends that the State party inform all detainees oft heir legal rights, including their right to seek legal counsel.

2000
2000
Human Rights Committee

§ 23[...] (a)consider abolishing the remaining elements of its mandatory immigration detention policy; (b) implement the recommendations of the HumanRights andEquality Commissionmade in its ImmigrationDetention Report of 2008; (c)considerclosing down the Christmas Island detention centre; and (d)enact in legislation a comprehensive immigration framework in compliance with the Covenant.

§ 24 [...] ensure thatchildren in conflict with the law, including those in detention, are treated in consistence with the Covenant and the UnitedNations Rules forthe Protection of Juveniles Deprived of theirLiberty. The State party should implement the recommendations of the HumanRights andEqualOpportunity Commission in this regard. The situation ofchildren in detention should be addressedwithin the State party’s proposed newchild protection framework.

2009
2009
Committee on the Rights of the Child

64. The Committee recommends that the State party implement the recommendations contained in the HREOC report “A Last Resort?”, and bring its immigration and asylum laws fully into conformity with the Convention and other relevant international standards, taking into account the Committee’s general comment No. 6 (2005) on the treatment of unaccompanied and separated children outside their country of origin. In particular, the State party should: (a) Ensure that children are nota utomatically detained in the context of immigration and that detention is only used as a measure ofl ast resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time; (b) Seek an assessment by a court or an independent tribunal within 48 hours of the detention of a child in the context of immigration of whether there is a real need to detain that child; (c) Improve considerably the conditions of children in immigration detention when such detention is considered necessary and in the best interests of the child, and bring them into line with international standards; (d) Guarantee periodic review of the detention of children detained in the context of immigration;

2005
2005
Committee against Torture

§ 11[...] a) Consider abolishing its policy of mandatory immigration detention for those entering irregularly the State party’s territory. Detention should be used as a measure of last resort only and a reasonable time limit for detention should be set; furthermore, non-custodial measures and alternatives to detention should be made available to persons in immigration detention; (b) Take urgent measures to avoid the indefinite character of detention of stateless persons.

§12 [...] The State party should end the use of “excised” offshore locations for visa processing purposes in order allowall asylum-seekers an equal opportunity to apply for a visa.

§17 The State party should ensure that effective remedies are available to challenge the decision not to grant asylum or to deny or cancel a visa. Such remedies should have the effect of suspending the execution of the above decision, i.e. the expulsion or removal.

§ 22 [...] The State party should ensure thateducation and training of all immigration officials and personnel, including health service providers,employed at immigration detention centres, are conducted on a regular basis. The State party should also regularly evaluate the training provided.

§25 [...] the State party should; (a) Abide by the commitment that children no longer be held in immigration detention centres under any circumstances. Furthermore, it should ensure that any kind of detention of children is always used as a measure of lastresort and for a minimum period of time; (b) As a matter of priority, ensure that asylum-seekers who have been detained are provided with adequate physical and mental health care, including routine assessments.

§ 26 [...]  With the objective of improving protection of asylum-seekers, the State party should ensure that the Immigration Detention Standards be codified into legislation and provide for an independent monitoring mechanism.

2008
2008
Committee on the Right of Persons with Disabilities 14. The Committee recommends that the State party: (a) Include a focus on the rights of children with disabilities in any national plan of action for the realization of the rights of the child ; (b) Ensure access for children with disabilities to quality and human rights-based early intervention mechanisms ; (c) Amend all legislation to guarantee that children with disabilities are provided with age-appropriate support and accommodations to express their views in all matters that affect their rights or interests; (d) Fund and resource culturally suitable support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children with disabilities and their families, in the local community; (e) Urgently remove all refugee and asylum-seeking children, particularly children with disabilities and their families, from detention facilities, ensure the provision of individualized support and recognize the denial of reasonable accommodation as a form of discrimination. § 36. The State party: (a) Review and amend its migration laws and policies to ensure that persons with disabilities do not face discrimination in any of the formalities and procedures relating to migration and asylum and, especially, remove the exemption in the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 to certain provisions of the Migration Act 1958; (b) Remove the 10-year qualifying period for migrants to access the Age Support Pension and the Disability Support Pension ; (c) Cease the transfer of refugees and asylum seekers, particularly persons with disabilities, to Nauru, Papua New Guinea and other “ regional processing countries ”, as requested by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in a factsheet on the protection of so-called “ legacy caseload ” asylum seekers, and establish a minimum standard of health care and support for persons with disabilities held in immigration detention. 2019
2019
Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 14. (c) Ensure that private companies, such as the service providers in the regional processing centres in Nauru and Papua New Guinea, comply with their human rights obligations; (d) Reinforce effective mechanisms to investigate complaints filed against private companies and take effective measures to ensure access to justice for victims; ... §28. The Committee recommends that the State party take effective measures to: (a) Increase labour inspection, especially at workplaces in industries with a concentration of migrant workers; (b) Encourage workers to report violations of labour rights, including by providing adequate resources to legal aid service providers, and ensure that public services work independently from the immigration authorities, so as to guarantee adequate labour protection and access to public services for all migrant workers, without fear of dismissal, detention or deportation; (c) Strengthen the human and financial resources of the Fair Work Ombudsman to enable it to perform its functions effectively; (d) Take steps to hold exploitative employers accountable and to compensate victims; (e) Consider the Committee ’ s general comment No. 23 (2016) on the right to just and favourable conditions of work. 2017
2017

NON-TREATY-BASED INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS MECHANISMS

Relevant Recommendations from the UN Universal Periodic Review
Observation Date
Yes 2011 1st
Yes 2016 2nd
Yes 146.308 Amend legislation on migration in order to prohibit the detention of children in immigration centres and, in exceptional cases, ensure that such detention be for the shortest time possible (Uruguay); 146.309 Ensure implementation of a human rights approach in the offshore processing of migrants and asylum seekers (Uganda); 146.310 Review legislation on the mandatory detention of irregular migrants and halt the use of offshore detention centres in Nauru and Papua New Guinea (Ireland); 146.311 Ensure immigration detention is justified, time limited, and subject to prompt and regular judicial oversight (Germany); 146.312 Consider amending the Migration Act in order to prohibit the detention of minors and prioritize family reunification (Costa Rica); 146.313 Review its immigration detention regime to end the indefinite detention of people seeking asylum in Australia and to stop offshore processing of refugees and provide pathways to resettlement (Finland); ... 146.326 Review the immigration policies so as to improve the rights of refugees and asylum seekers, including by transferring to onshore centres asylum seekers waiting for a decision and taking into consideration the humanitarian aspects of the expulsion of foreign citizens with permanent resident visas (Italy); 146.328 Halt the offshore detention of refugees or asylum seekers arriving by sea (Luxembourg); 2021 3rd

REGIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS MECHANISMS

GOVERNANCE SYSTEM

Legal Tradition(s)
Common law

DETENTION COSTS

Estimated Detention Cost Per Detainee Day (in USD)
9,305
2021

OUTSOURCING

Types of Privatisation/Outsourcing
Detention facility security
2022
Health services
2022
Social services
2022
Other detention facility or detainee services
2022
Detention facility management
2021
Detention Contractors and Other Non-State Entities
Serco (For profit) Yes Yes Yes Yes
2022

FOREIGN SOURCES OF FUNDING FOR DETENTION OPERATIONS