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Detention Centres

In Australia, immigration detention facilities are made up of a number of different types of facilities throughout Australia and offshore. These detention centres are used to hold people who are detained under Australia’s immigration law policy of mandatory detention. Detention is an administrative function whereby people without a valid visa to either enter or stay in Australia are detained while their claims to stay are considered or their removal is arranged.

There are four kinds of immigration detention facilities within Australia. As well as Immigration Detention Centres (IDC), people can be detained in community-based arrangements. These include immigration transit accommodation, immigration residential housing, and immigration alternative places of detention. There are also offshore regional processing and detention facilities.

The law that governs all aspects of migration in Australia is the Migration Act 1958 (Cth) which is administered by the Department of Home Affairs.

Detention Centres Australia

Immigration detention centres (IDC)

IDC have been privatised and are currently operated by the company Serco, which has a contract to run the centres with the Department of Home Affairs. These facilities are used to detain people who have overstayed their visa, or who are in breach of their visa conditions or who have come to Australia without a valid visa.

People who have been refused entry into Australia at an international airport or a seaport may also be detained in an IDC. This includes any irregular maritime arrivals who wish to claim asylum who are without passports, identity papers or valid entry visas. Under the Migration Act, people arriving in this manner are classified as unlawful non-citizens and are immediately placed in mandatory detention.

This type of facility holds medium and high risk detainees and the majority of the people in the centres are single adult males. They are located on Christmas Island and on the mainland in Maribyrnong, Perth, Villawood and Yongah Hill.

Immigration residential housing (IRH)

IRH provides an option to accommodate people in independent family-style housing in a community setting while they are still being formally detained. This type of facility is one of the types of alternative residential accommodation for people in detention who meet the necessary eligibility criteria. It allows them to have more autonomy in their daily lives by being able to cook their own food and to control many aspects of their household. As well as recreational and social activities, detainees are also able to go shopping and to take part in community events. There are two of these facilities, one in Sydney and one in Perth

Immigration transit accommodation (ITA)

ITA provides hostel-style accommodation for short term low risk detainees, usually nearing a resolution of their case. They provide activities and programmes, including on-site recreational facilities. The Melbourne centre has a whole section just for children, both in families and unaccompanied. Whilst it is intended as transit accommodation, persons have been held there for up to three years.

The Immigration Transit Accommodation in Brisbane opened in November 2007 and in June 2008 the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation opened. Further immigration transit accommodation opened in Adelaide in 2011.

Alternative place of detention (APOD)

This type of facility is for detainees who are assessed as being of minimal risk to the community. They are available to any person who is being held in detention who meets the criteria. They can be in the form of rented housing in the community, rooms in hotels or other community housing.

APOD also include hospital accommodation for those in need of medical attention and treatment, schools for the purpose of educating school-aged minors, or accommodation in the community that is made available through arrangements with other government departments. There are also permanent APODs which are located in the Northern Territory and on Christmas Island.

Manus Island regional processing centre and Nauru detention centre

Australia has funded an immigration detention centre on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea since the implementation of the Pacific Solution. The centre was closed in February 2008 when the Pacific Solution was put on hold and was then reopened on 22 November 2012.

Nauru was opened in 2001 and closed in 2007. It reopened in 2012. Both facilities are for the detention of asylum seekers who have arrived on unscheduled boats without a visa. If their applications for asylum are successful these immigrants are re settled on the island.


Michelle Makela

Michelle Makela is one of our Legal Practice Directors and the National Practice Manager. She holds a Bachelor of Laws, a Bachelor of Science (Psychology) and a Master’s in Criminology. Michelle has had a varied career, working in commercial litigation, criminal law, family law and estate planning. Michelle joined Go To Court Lawyers in 2011. She now supervises a team of over 80 solicitors across Australia.

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