Detention facilities

People in Australian immigration detention

Over the past two years there has been an increase in the number of people entering immigration detention whose visa has been cancelled on character grounds. In June 2015, the percentage of people in immigration detention because their visa had been cancelled on character grounds was 23, which had increased to 31 per cent by June 2016. Over the same period, the percentage of illegal maritime arrivals in immigration detention decreased from 61 in June 2015 to 32 per cent in June 2016. See Statistics for the current number of detainees in immigration detention. The remainder of the population is made up of illegal foreign fishers, unauthorised seaport and airport arrivals and people who have overstayed their visa conditions.

Most detainees whose visa has been cancelled on character grounds have committed a serious crime. This presents challenges for the management of the Australian immigration detention network.

The Department undertakes regular reviews of all people placed in immigration detention.

The Department has a statutory obligation to report to the Commonwealth Ombudsman about a person who has been in immigration detention for a cumulative period of two or more years—and then every six months. The Department must provide the Commonwealth Ombudsman with a report about the circumstances, their health and the progress of their case.

The Commonwealth Ombudsman assesses the Department’s report and may make recommendations about the person. The Commonwealth Ombudsman’s recommendations focus on things that may need attention such as following up on health issues, progress of a visa application or moving a detainee to a different facility or into the community for family or support reasons.

The Commonwealth Ombudsman’s assessment reports are tabled in Parliament by the Minister, and the Department acts on all recommendations.

Types of detention facilities

Australian immigration detention facilities consists of immigration detention centres (IDC) and alternative places of detention (APOD), immigration transit accommodation (ITA) and places in the broader community that can be designated as places of immigration detention. Unaccompanied children, families with children and other vulnerable people may be placed in community placement instead of an immigration detention facility.

People who may be placed in an immigration detention facility include:

  • a person who is refused entry to Australia at an air or seaport
  • a person who overstays their visa
  • a person who has breached their visa conditions and had their visa cancelled
  • an unauthorised maritime arrival
  • a person whose visa has been cancelled on character grounds
  • suspected illegal foreign fishers
  • suspected foreign offenders.

When determining where to place a detainee, the Department takes into account the detainee’s background, their personal circumstances and best interests, the best interests of other detainees, as well as operational and security factors.

In immigration detention facilities, teams of ABF officers and departmental Status Resolution Officers (SROs) work closely together to ensure the safety and security of detainees and the Australian community, while a detainee’s immigration status is resolved. SROs identify barriers to resolution and work with detainees and others including the ABF to achieve this outcome, consistent with legislation and government policy. ABF officers focus on maintaining the good order of facilities and undertake activities to facilitate removals. These complimentary functions work collaboratively towards an immigration outcome.

Immigration detention centres (IDCs)

  • IDCs usually accommodate people who are assessed as a security or character risk, or other reasons such as unconfirmed identity, health requirements, or there is no other facility available.
  • There are five IDCs—Perth, Villawood, Yongah Hill, Maribyrnong and North West Point on Christmas Island.

Alternative places of detention (APOD)

  • An APOD is a place of immigration detention—other than an IDC or places identified as part of a residence determination (also known as ‘community placement’).
  • APODs are used to meet the specific needs of detainees that cannot be adequately catered for in an IDC.
  • APODs include:
    • immigration transit accommodation (ITA) which provides semi-independent living in hostel-style accommodation. Individuals are able to attend appointments in the community under supervision.
    • places in the broader community that can be designated as places of immigration detention, such as leased private housing, hotels and motels, and hospitals including mental health facilities.

Contact details for each facility is available at Immigration detention facilities.

Visiting an immigration detention facility

A person may be permitted to visit an immigration detention facility if they are:

  • a personal visitor
  • a professional visitor
  • an official visitor
  • a consular or foreign government representative
  • a media representative
  • researchers.

For more information, refer to Visiting an immigration detention facility.

Community placement

The Minister can decide that a person can live in the community by making a residence determination—otherwise known as community placement.

Community placement allows a person assessed as low risk, to live in the community rather than a detention facility, while their immigration status is being resolved. A person in community placement can move about freely and receive visitors in their home, if they wish. However, there are some restrictions that apply to them. The residence determination will specify the address at which the person must live.

A person in community placement is supported by the Department’s Status Resolution Support Services program. Support may include:

  • access to housing
  • case management
  • a living allowance to meet living costs
  • education and English language classes
  • health care including mental health and torture and trauma counselling.

A person living in community placement must adhere to certain conditions, including:

  • abiding by Australian laws and regulations
  • meeting their reporting requirements
  • living at the required address—however they may stay short term at another location if approved
  • not undertaking work which would normally receive an income.


See Statistics for the number of detainees in each immigration detention facility.

​​​ Accommodation for detainees
Laundry facilities for use by detainees
Communication for detainees
Recreation activities for detainees—music room
Recreation activities for detainees—gym and table tennis
Kitchen at Villawood centre
Medical services for detainees
Room for religious activities
Visitors’ area
Playground for children visiting detainees