COVID-19: Important information for visitors to an immigration detention facility (IDF)
Updated on 20 July 2021
Visits to immigration detention facilities during COVID-19
Check our website regularly as visit information can change at any time in line with Health advice.
Visits have been expanded to all visitor types, including volunteers and members of community groups.
The ABF remains focused on preventing the entry of COVID-19 to IDFs. ;Visits to IDFs will be impacted based on cases in the community and state/territory health advice. Any 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 current status of the Immigration Detention Visitor Program is summarised in the table below.
Immigration detention facility visiting status
| State || Status |
| Queensland ||Suspended until further notice|
|Victoria||Suspended until further notice|
|New South Wales ||Suspended until further notice|
| South Australia ||Suspended until further notice|
| Northern Territory || Resumed|
The ABF continues to monitor the COVID-19 situation in each jurisdiction and will follow the advice of relevant health authorities accordingly.
Where visits are temporarily suspended:
- ABF’s preference is that correspondence or documentation pertaining to legal advice or legal proceedings is conducted via electronic means or postal services.
- Subject to any state or territory government directions, members of the public can drop-off or pick-up gifts, property or other items in-person at IDFs, however, it is the ABF’s preference that you use alternate options, such as mail/postal and other communication services
Applications for all types of visitors are available at IDFs where visits have recommenced and are
not affected by COVID-19 temporary visitor suspensions.
All visitors are required to comply with the Conditions of Entry, including new safety measures such as physical distancing and screening measures.
You must not visit an IDF 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 may be fewer in-person bookings available as we apply necessary safety measures. Visits for each detainee will be managed fairly.
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 continue to gradually increase capacity and reduce restrictions when it is safe to do so.
The ABF continues to encourage members of the community to communicate with detainees through phone calls, skype or other audio-visual tools. Detainees have access to landline telephones and can make calls to Australian phone numbers free of change. Detainees also have unrestricted access to personal mobile phones and can obtain phone cards utilising existing Individual Allowance Program point arrangements.
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 an immigration detention facility?
Yes, however this is subject to change at short notice if an increased risk of COVID-19 is identified. Furthermore, all visitors who request to visit an IDF must abide by the
conditions of entry.
Visiting schedules vary from facility to facility.
We may 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 during their visit
- Physical distancing booths may be in use (screens have been removed).
- The overall number of visits available may have been reduced to apply minimum physical distancing requirements.
- Visits will take place indoors in a designated visits area.
- Visits will generally run for one (1) hour per visit to reduce the risk of transmission. Exceptions apply to the following IDFs where visitors may be permitted for up to two (2) hours per visit:
- North West Point Immigration Detention Centre
- Yongah Hill Immigration Detention Centre
- No food or drinks are allowed to be brought into the IDF by visitors. Exceptions may be considered for young children.
- Visitors must not share any food or drinks brought into the visits area/s by detainees.
- 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?
As of Monday 29 March 2021, visits to IDFs transitioned to ‘limited contact’ visits where it is safe to do so.
This means that a fist or elbow bump at the beginning and end of the visit is allowed but detainees and visitors must maintain physical distance at all other times.
This condition is for your safety and the health and wellbeing of everyone.
Can children attend a visit?
Yes, children may visit, noting they must comply with standard precautions such as hygiene requirements. Our staff will manage these interactions in the most compassionate way possible.
Outdoor spaces will not be available.
What are the screening requirements?
All persons (without exception) entering an IDF 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.
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 IDFs 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 IDF, 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 IDF.
A person must apply to visit a detainee. Approval of a visitor application is subject to operational considerations.