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.

​​​​​COVID-19: Important information for visitors to an immigration detention facility

Updated on 19​ January 2020

Visits to immigration detention facilities during COVID-19

The ABF remains focused on preventing the entry of COVID-19 to immigration detention facilities (IDFs).

On Monday 7 December 2020, COVID-safe in-person visits resumed at immigration detention facilities where it was safe to do so. Visits were suspended in March to ensure the safety of staff and detainees during COVID-19. Due to the impact of community outbreaks in some states across the country, the current status of the visitor program is summarised in the table below.​

​​Immigration detention facility visiting status

Queensland Temporarily suspended since 8 January 2021
New South Wa​les Resumed 19 January 2021
Victoria Resumed​ 11 January 2021
South AustraliaResumed
Northern TerritoryResumed
Western AustraliaResumed​

The decision to suspend visits in certain locations is not taken lightly. The health and safety of detainees, staff and visitors remains our key priority. The ABF continues to monitor the COVID-19 situation in each State and Territory and will follow the advice of relevant health authorities accordingly.​

ABF’s preference is that correspondence or documentation pertaining to legal advice or legal proceedings is conducted via electronic means or postal services for those detainees in facilities where visits have been temporarily suspended.

Members of the public cannot drop-off or pick-up gifts, property or other items in-person at immigration detention facilities where visits have been temporarily suspended. It is recommended that you use alternate options, such as mail/postal and other communication services.

Applications for the following types of visitors are available at immigration detention facilities where visits have recommenced and are not affected by COVID-19 temporary visitor suspensions:​

  • Personal visitors (family and friends)
  • Professional visitors (lawyers, migration agents, medical professionals)
  • Consular visitors
  • Visitors who provide spiritual care

Visits look different to before. All visitors are required to comply with new safety measures such as physical distancing and screening measures.

You must not visit an immigration detention facility if you:

  • are unwell
  • have recently been unwell
  • have been in contact with someone who is unwell
  • have symptoms of respiratory illness, or
  • have recently visited an area which is the subject of a public health alert as advised by a relevant health authority.

There are fewer in-person bookings available as we apply these safety measures. Visits for each detainee will be managed fairly.

Applications to visit should be made via existing procedures.

We continue to monitor the situation closely and will follow the advice of the relevant health authorities to ensure the safety of detainees, staff and visitors. Our intention is to gradually increase capacity and reduce restrictions when it is safe to do so.

Visit information may change at any time if an increased risk of COVID-19 is identified.

The ABF understands the important role visitors play in detainees' health and wellbeing and will continue to provide each detainee with a $20 phone credit each week to support ongoing contact with family and community groups via their personal devices. During this time, communication with detainees is encouraged through phone calls, skype or other audio visual tools.

COVID-safe: Information for visitors

Who do COVID-safe in-person visits apply to?

COVID-safe procedures apply to all in-person visitors, including professional and official visitors.​

Applications to visit should be made via existing procedures.​

Will I be able to visit immigration detention?

Following public health advice, you are unable to visit immigration facilities in Queensland. This is a temporary measure.

This is subject to change at short notice if an increased risk of COVID-19 is identified.

The health and safety of detainees, staff and visitors remains our key priority. The ABF continues to monitor the COVID-19 situation in each State and Territory and will follow the advice of relevant health authorities accordingly.

Visiting schedules vary from facility to facility.

We have had to reduce the number of visitor sessions available to allow for physical distancing in the visits area. We know this may be frustrating but please remember, we are taking these precautions to keep everyone safe.

Detainees in operational or medical quarantine, as well as clinical isolation, will not be able to receive visitors until their isolation or quarantine has finished.

What safety measures apply to visits?

The following safety measures are in place to keep detainees, staff and visitors safe:

  • Visitors and detainees must maintain physical distancing at all times.
  • Physical distancing screens may be in use.
  • The overall number of visits available has been reduced to apply minimum physical distancing requirements.
  • Visits will take place indoors in a designated visits area.
  • Visits will run for one (1) hour per visit to reduce the risk of transmission.
  • No food or drinks are allowed to be brought into the immigration detention facility.
  • Visitors may be asked to wear a mask.
  • All visits must be pre-booked.
  • Hand sanitiser will be available and hand hygiene must be performed before and after a visit.
  • Deep cleaning of the visits area will be done after each visit.

What happens if I ignore the safety measures?

These measures are in place to protect you, detainees and staff.

If you do not comply with the Conditions of Entry, including safety measures and instructions from staff, your visit may be refused or terminated and may negatively impact the approval of any application you make for future visits.

Will physical distancing rules apply to in-person visits?

Yes, in line with advice from relevant health authorities, physical distancing will be enforced.

Detainees and visitor/s must maintain physical distance for the duration of the visit. This condition is for your safety and the health and wellbeing of everyone.

Can children attend a visit?

Whilst visits by children may be considered, they are discouraged as young children are less likely to comply with standard precautions such as hygiene requirements.

Outdoor spaces will not be available.

What are the screening requirements?

All persons (without exception) entering an immigration detention facility are required to meet screening criteria. As with all our safety measures, they are designed to reduce the risk of transmission within the facilities. These measures are required to help keep detainees, staff and visitors safe.

Screening requirements include:

  • Temperature check: if your temperature is 37.5 degrees Celsius or higher you will not be permitted to enter.
  • You will be required to provide current contact details so that the relevant health authority can contact you if contact tracing is required.
  • You will be asked about your current health and whether you are experiencing any flu-like symptoms.
  • You will be asked about any recent travel.
  • If your responses to the screening questions present a COVID-19 risk, your visit will need to be rescheduled.

What is involved in the visitor screening process?

To reduce the risk of COVID-19 entering the immigration detention network, visitors will be screened before the normal visit processing occurs. This means you may be asked about your health and whether you have travelled recently.

You will have your temperature tested and will be not be able to enter if it is 37.5 degrees Celsius or higher.

You will also be required to sanitise your hands and may be required to put on a surgical mask before entering the facility.

How long will the screening process take?

The screening process is estimated to take 15 minutes per person, noting this is subject to variation due to individual circumstances. We ask you to be patient. Please remember, we are taking these precautions to keep everyone safe.

General information

We recognise that visits from relatives, friends, community contacts and relevant professionals are important for the wellbeing of detainees.

We and our service providers are committed to providing all visitors to immigration detention facilities with a safe environment. To make the visiting process as simple, efficient and stress free as possible we:

Visitors are generally permitted to visit one detainee per visit. We can consider exceptions in limited circumstances, for example where a visitor seeks to visit in a family group.

Detainees must first consent to a visit, unless required by law to accept a visitor.

If a visitor wishes to enter an immigration detention facility, they are required to undergo security screening and adhere to COVID-19 measures. If you do not wish to undergo screening you cannot enter an immigration detention facility.

A person must apply to visit a detainee. Approval of a visitor application is subject to operational considerations.