Immigration detention in Australia

We treat all people in detention with respect, dignity and fairness. While in an immigration detention facility, we provide appropriate food, medical, recreational and other support services, including mental health services.

​​​​​Immigration detention

Immigration detention is part of strong border control and supports the integrity of Australia's migration program.

While Australia welcomes migrants and visitors, individuals must arrive lawfully and abide by the conditions of their visa. Australian law requires foreign nationals coming to Australia to obtain a visa.

A person who does not hold a valid visa is an unlawful non-citizen, and must be detained under the Migration Act 1958. Whether the person is placed in an immigration detention facility, or other arrangements are made, is determined using a risk-based approach. The safety of the Australian community is an important factor in this decision.

In Australia, immigration detention is administrative not punitive. It helps us manage our temporary entry and permanent migration programs.

Detention laws

Australia’s mandatory immigration detention framework is contained within the Migration Act 1958 (Cth).

Under this law, Australian Border Force Officers must detain unlawful non-citizens. A person might be unlawful because:

  • they arrived without a valid visa
  • their visa was cancelled
  • their visa has expired

We try to manage people in the community while we resolve their immigration status. However, in some cases management in the community is not appropriate.

Villawood Immigration Detention Centre