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.

​​​​The Australian Government, service providers and independent agencies work together to manage immigration detention in Australia.

Our shared goal is to resolve the immigration status of each person as fairly and as fast as possible.

Department of Home Affairs

The Department of Home Affairs manages:

  • immigration and border policy
  • Australia's visa program
  • service provision in immigration detention

Our status resolution officers work to resolve the immigration status of each detainee.

We publish statistics on immigration detention and unauthorised​ maritime arrivals.

Australian Border Force

The Australian Border Force promotes visa and migration compliance and targets threats posed to the integrity of Australia's migration program.

We make decisions about immigration detention in accordance with the legislation. Under the Australian Border Force Act 2015 (Cth), Border Force Officers exercise their powers under the Migration Act 1958 (Cth) and other Commonwealth legislation. This includes the power to detain unlawful non-citizens.

Our work in immigration detention facilities is guided by a suite of detention policies and procedures.

We are responsible for the management of good order, safety and security within immigration detention facilities, including the health and welfare of detainees.

Service providers

We contract the provision of specific services for detainees to various service providers.

Serco provides a range of services at Australia's immigration detention facilities including:

  • Garrison Services
  • Facilities Management Services
  • Security Services
  • Transport and Escort Services
  • Welfare and Engagement Services and
  • Business Services.

International Health and Medical Services provides health services to detainees. Detainees receive health care broadly comparable to those available in the Australian community including:

  • primary health care through nurse-led triaging
  • access to mental health care
  • referrals to specialist health care
  • antenatal care

All of our services providers must:

  • support and promote a stable and harmonious environment
  • seek to resolve situations and tensions peacefully
  • treat everyone with respect and courtesy
  • eliminate harassment
  • behave in a tolerant, respectful and culturally sensitive way

Oversight and assurance

There are laws, policies, rules and practices that govern how people are treated in immigration detention facilities. The length and conditions of immigration detention are subject to regular internal and external review.

We use internal assurance and external oversight processes to ensure that health, safety and wellbeing of all detainees is maintained.


Our internal assurance processes are provided by the Department of Home Affairs separate to, and independent from, operational areas of the Australian Border Force:

  • the Detention Assurance Team reviews allegations and incidents and practices in immigration detention and recommends strategies for improvement
  • the audit committee assesses how we make decisions about immigration detention
  • the Chief Medical Officer/Surgeon General gives expert medical strategy and clinical advice
  • the Independent Health Advice Panel monitors and advises on improvements to health services


There are a number of oversight bodies who conduct regular, independent and objective assessments, enquiries and scrutiny activities with a strong focus on monitoring immigration detention facilities.

  • The Commonwealth Ombudsman oversees the immigration functions of the Department. This includes inspecting immigration detention facilities and investigating complaints in relation to visa / citizenship processing delays, detention issues and customs-related issues. The Commonwealth Ombudsman also oversees immigration detention facilities as part of their role as the Commonwealth National Preventive Mechanism under the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture.
  • The Australian Human Rights Commission investigates complaints, conducts inquires and reports on immigration detention as it relates to human rights.
  • The Australian Red Cross monitors the conditions and treatment of people in immigration detention facilities and offers a service to restore family links

The Department works cooperatively with these organisations to facilitate their visits and to respond to their enquiries.

We make sure detainees can contact independent agencies if they want to.

Each immigration detention facility has a process to manage complaints and feedback​.

Statutory reporting obligations

Under section 486N of the Migration Act 1958, the Secretary of the Department of Home Affairs must give the Commonwealth Ombudsman a report relating to the circumstances of a person’s detention.

The Department of Home Affairs must provide this report within 21 days of a person having been in detention for two years, and then every six months for as long as they remain in immigration detention.

Under section 486O of the Migration Act 1958, the Commonwealth Ombudsman is required, as soon as practicable, to prepare an assessment on the appropriateness of the arrangements for people who have been in immigration detention for two years, and then every 6 months, for as long as they remain in detention.

The Ombudsman provides these assessments to the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs (the Minister). These assessments may include recommendations, however, the Minister is not bound to implement a recommendation made by the Ombudsman.

The Minister must table the Ombudsman’s assessments (A de‑identified version) within 15 sitting days after the Minister receives the assessment.