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Camp Australia Complaint

Camping / June 7, 2019

Villawood IDC, New South WalesThe human rights of people who are in immigration detention are of special concern to the Commission. Liberty is a fundamental human right, recognised in major human rights instruments to which Australia is a party, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. People who are held in detention are particularly vulnerable to violations of their human rights.

Why people are held in immigration detention in Australia

Since 1992 Australia has had a system of mandatory detention. Any non-citizen who is in Australia without a valid visa must be detained according to the Migration Act 1958 (Cth) (Migration Act). These people may only be released from immigration detention if they are granted a visa, or removed from Australia.

Categories of people who are currently in immigration detention in Australia include:

  • students who have had their visa cancelled because they breached one or more of the conditions attached to the visa
  • people who have overstayed their visa
  • people who are suspected of involvement with people smuggling
  • non-nationals who are alleged to have been illegally fishing in Australian territorial waters.

Children are held in immigration detention in Australia – click here for further information.

Numbers of people in immigration detention, and how long they have been detained

The number of people being held in immigration detention in Australia changes on a constant basis. As at 30 November 2015 there were 1, 852 people held in immigration detention facilities and 585 in community detention.

There is no set time limit to how long a person may be held in immigration detention in Australia. The period of time a person spends in detention may vary from a few weeks up to a few years, or even longer. As at 30 November 2015 the average period of time a person would spend in closed immigration detention was 446 days, but 436 people had been held in immigration detention for over 2 years.

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection publishes statistics setting out the number of people in immigration detention, and how long they have been in detention for. For a summary of the most recent immigration detention statistics, click here.

Immigration detention centres

Immigration detention centres (IDCs) are the most secure of Australia’s immigration detention facilities. As of November 2015 there were IDCs in the following locations:

  • Christmas Island IDC on Christmas Island
  • Maribyrnong IDC in Melbourne
  • Perth IDC
  • Villawood IDC in Sydney
  • Yongah Hill IDC in Western Australia

Immigration residential housing

Immigration residential housing (IRH) facilities are closed detention facilities, but they have less intrusive security measures than IDCs. They provide more flexible accommodation including housing that can accommodate families. As of November 2015 there were three IRH facilities:

  • Perth IRH in a suburb of Perth
  • Sydney IRH next to Villawood IDC

Immigration transit accommodation

Immigration transit accommodation (ITA) facilities are closed detention facilities, but they have less intrusive security measures than IDCs. They were originally intended to be used for people who were departing Australia, or in the process of being transferred to other places of detention, but have increasingly been used for longer-term stays. As of November 2015 there were three ITA facilities:

  • Adelaide ITA in Kilburn
  • Brisbane ITA in Pinkenba
  • Melbourne ITA in Broadmeadows

Alternative places of detention

Immigration detainees may be held in designated ‘alternative places of detention’ (APOD). These can include places such as correctional centres, hospitals, hotels, psychiatric facilities, foster care arrangements, or with a designated person at a private residence. For people detained in one of these alternative places of detention, what conditions and restrictions apply to them will depend on where they are held, and what arrangements are made for them to be supervised while detained there.

There are also a number of low security immigration detention facilities that are classified by the Department as alternative places of detention. As at 30 November 2015 these include Phosphate Hill and Construction Camp on Christmas Island (although these APODs were empty on 30 November 2015) and Wickham Point APOD in the Northern Territory. People detained in these facilities remain under supervision and are not free to come and go.

Community detention

Some immigration detainees are permitted to live at a specified residence in the community, in what is known as ‘community detention’. Legally these people remain in immigration detention, but in community detention they are generally not under physical supervision. For further information see alternatives to using closed immigration detention.

As at 30 November 2015 24% of the people in immigration detention were in community detention. The Commission welcomes the increased use of community detention but remains concerned that thousands of people are still being held in closed immigration detention facilities, on average for over a year.

Asylum seekers transferred and detained in other countries

Under the third country processing regime introduced in August 2012, asylum seekers who arrive by boat in Australia must be transferred to a third country as soon as is reasonably practicable, unless the Minister for Immigration exercises his or her discretion to exempt them from transfer. As at 30 November 2015 there were 543 asylum seekers, including 70 children, detained in Nauru, and 926 male adult asylum seekers detained on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea. For more information see transfer of asylum seekers to third countries.