Detention Stats

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) latest statistics are dated 30 September 2014 . These show;
  • 603 children locked in Australia's secure immigration detention facilities, 
  • 144 of these children are detained on Christmas Island 
  • An additional 186 children are detained in Naur

  • 1586 are detained in the community under residence determinations, a system referrred to as Community Detetnion.  
  • 2029 children are living in the community on Bridging Visas which mean their parents have no work rights and very limited access to any Government support. 
The statistics do not give a breakdown of how many children are unaccompanied vs how many are with adult family members. We continue to ask the Department and Government for this as well as a breakdown of numbers in each mainland detention facility. Instead 'mainland APODs' (alternative places of detention) are grouped together, currently 338 children are held in mainland APODs. The APOD facilities at Leonora (WA) and Port Augusta (SA) and the Darwin Airport Lodge (DAL) are now closed, this means the vast majority of children in these facilities are in two prison like facilities in Darwin, a fairly high number in Melbourne and some in Adelaide at the Inverbrackie facility which is set to close by end of 2014 (and is recognised as the most physically humane environment amidst an inhumane system).  
This map shows where Australia's detention centres are located. Figures in the map are based on those released by DIBP, therefore accurate as of 30 September 2014. Here is an explanation of the different forms of detention and why we state there is nothing 'alternate' about a so called 'alternative place of detention'. 
Incidents in detention are logged by the private company, Serco who manage the facilities. This comprehensive website charts 'incidents' by date, by facility, by type. A day-to-day insight in to what happens in our detention facilities. 

Reports and Analysis

December 2013 - Damaging Children : Darwin Detention. ChilOut's own report following our formal tour of Darwin's three so-called 'alternative places of detention' and meeting with many families and expectant mothers.

December 2013 -  This is breaking people. Amnesty International report into Human rights violations at Australia's refugee processing centre on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea. NB: at the time of the report, there were no children detained here. The previous government did detain families in this location. 

November 2013 - UNHCR monitoring visit to the Republic of Nauru, 7 to 9 October 2013 Recommend no children be sent to detention on Nauru. Found children living in "difficult conditions" with inadequate access to recreation and education facilities. 

November 2013 - UNHCR monitoring visit to Manus Island, Papua New Guinea 23 to 25 October 2013. Of the physical conditions in the centre: "do not provide safe and humane conditions of treatment in detention" 

October 2013 - Asylum Seekers, Refugees and Human Rights, Australian Human Rights Commission. “As a result of Australia’s policy of mandatory detention, there were 6403 people in closed immigration detention facilities across Australia on 30 September 2013, 1078 – or approximately one in six – of which were children” Professor Triggs said.

August 2013 - EU case law regarding the best interests of the child in relation to three unaccompanied minors seeking asylum. Neither Australia, PNG or Nauru have human rights charters such as those in the EU for such a case to be brought. The case highlights again, the lack of protections for vulnerable people without something like a Human Rights Act in place. 

June 2013 -  Australian Parliamently Library, Social Policy Unit report on Health care for asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus Island.  This report presents contract information, obligations on health care providers, information about local health care in both locations and concludes that it will be very difficult to overcome the many obstacles to providing acceptable standards of healthcare in these environments. 

June 2013 -  Human Rights Watch. Indonesia: children seeking refuge find abuse, neglect. Terrible detention conditions, beatings, no access to lawyers, unaccompanied children detained find HRW.  

April 2013 -  Australian Human Rights Commission - Human Rights Standards for Immigration Detention An easy to use, straughtforwrd guide to Australia's obligations. 

February 2013  - UNHCR report on Manus Island Regional Processing Centre. Calls for 'an end to the practice of detaining children on Manus Island as a matter of priority'.

December 2012- Hear our Voices. Formerly detained children present at the UN. Featuring ChilOut Youth Ambassador Bashir Yousufi.

December 2012- Australian Human Rights Commission Observations from visit to Immigration detention facilities on Christmas Island

October 2012 ChilOut in Geneva: On 28 September 2012, children who had been held in immigration detention – including ChilOut’s Youth Ambassadors – attended a United Nations’ event called ‘Hear our Voices – Children in Immigration Detention’. ChilOut joined children from Greece, Turkey, Israel, Norway and the United States at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland to discuss the increasing use of immigration detention, and more importantly, its impact on children around the world, as seen through the eyes of the children. 

September 2012 Rethinking the Guardianship of Refugee Children after the Malaysian Solution Professor Mark Crock and Associate Professor Mary-Anne Kenny, Sydney Law Review Volume34 Number3. 

September 2012 Back to the Future or Groundhog Day for Refugee Policy?  an article by Mary Cock, Daniel Ghezelbash and Jane McAdam that explores how the Gillard Government has been paralysed by domestic politics and the Australian publics paroxysmal concern with refugee boats.

March 2012 Captured Childhood. International Detention Coalitions alternatives to detention.

August 2012 Reactions to Migration Legislation Amendment (Offshore Processing and Other Measures) Bill.

August 2012 Report of the Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers The Government convened a panel of three experts and gave them six weeks to receive submissions, consult and prepare a report focused on providing a way forward for Australia's asylum policy. This came about after the political impasse on the issue in the May  / June session of Parliament. 

July 2012 Australian Human Rights Commission report: Community Arrangements for asylum seekers, refugees and stateless persons Based on observations from visits to detention facilities from December 2011 -  May 2012. Recommends Australia adopt community options as the norm, not a presumption to detain. Speaks of the particualr vulnerabilities of children in our current immigration detention system. 

July 2012 Australian Human Rights Commission Age of Uncertainty report looking into Australia's treatment of suspected people smugglers who claim to be under the age of 18. Critical of Australia's treatment of children, lengthy periods in adult prisons, use of dubious wrist x-rays to determine age. 

Final report of the Parliamentary Joint Select Committee on Australia's Immigration Detention Network. Included reccomendations such as 90 day limit on immigration detention, that an independent guardian replace the Minister for Immigration as guardian of unaccompanied minors seeking asylum and that children in particular not be detained in remote parts of Australia. Here's our short summary of the report

Captured Childhood, released 21 March 2012 by the International Detention Coalition. The report looks at the practices of eight nations (including Australia) in relation to their treatment of asylum seeking children. A best practice model is suggested and it is noted that it is 'never in the best interests of a child to be detained for immigration purposes'. 

A National Commissioner for Australia's Children. NGO Sector report available via Unicef (et al), released December 2011. Endorsed by ChilOut and over 30 other organisations this position paper covers the multiple reasons why Australia requires a Children's Commissioner and addresses the huge flaw that exists in our present system whereby the Minister for Immigration is both the guardian and detainer of unaccompanied minors seeking asylum. 

A New Approach: Breaking the stalemate on refugees and asylum seekers December 2011 released by the Centre for Poilcy Development critiques Australia's policies and makes recommendations that are in keeping with international law and balances humane treatment with security and other concerns.  

Long-Term Health Costs of Extended Mandatory Detention of Asylum Seekers. Yarra Institute, October 2011.

Should Parliament ulitimately decide whether asylum seekers may be sent to a foreign country?  August 2011. Elibritt Karlsen briefly examines some of the issues relating to ministerial responsibility for extra-territorial processing of asylum claims.  The paper outlines the Australian Greens recent initiatives to open Ministerial declarations to scrutiny by Parliament as a whole. It also notes the recent High Court challenge directed at the heart of this issue.

A New Approach. Breaking the Stalemate on Refugees and Asylum Seekers.  August 2011. ChilOut Chair, Kate Gauthier, has contributed to a major report in conjunction with former Secretary of the Department of Immigration, John Menadue, and DIAC careerist, Arja Keski-Nummi.  The report first and foremost calls for a reframing of the debate. They recommend establishing:

  • An independent and professional commission, with a small secretariat and budget, to facilitate informed public debate.
  • An independent Refugee, Asylum and Humanitarian Assistance Authority to administer the policy and programs that fall under Australia's offshore and onshore humanitarian programs underpinned by legislation that clearly articulates the values, principles and objectives of Australia's refugee and asylum policies.

No Place for Children: Immigration Detention on Christmas Island. June 2011. A ChilOut report prepared following our April 2011 to Christmas Island which, despite much forward planning and approvals gained, was a far more restricted a visit than we had envisaged. The report addresses ChilOut's policy concerns and the current international breaches Australia is engaged in by treating asylum seeker children the way it currently does. Also presented are details of daily life for children detained on Christmas Island, such as a 4year old boy excluded from playgroup as he is deemed to old, but there is no alternate group for him to take part in

In June 2011 a group of experts from the UK and USA visited Australia to discuss issues of security clearances and immigration detention. Here are the recommendations of the Joint Roundtable (hosted by the UNHCR and the International Detention Coalition), and the report summary.
Hugo Report on  Economic, Social and Civic Contributions of First and Second Generation Humanitarian Entrants  May 2011. It seems that we are generally accepting of refugees - it's asylum seekers that we have problems with. It shouldn't be too surprising that our tolerance of refugees is high given that 700,000 of us are refugees or descended from them. A major report into the population, productivity and participation of humanitarian entrants, commissioned by DIAC, now provides an evidential basis for this sentiment. Dip into the qualitative and quantitative data contained in the Hugo Report into Economic, social and civic contributions of first and second generation humanitarian entrants for an appreciation of the social and economic benefits they bring to our communities. It tells us:

"Humanitarian entrants help meet labour shortages, including in low skill and low paid occupations. They display strong entrepreneurial qualities compared with other migrant groups, with a higher than average proportion engaging in small and medium business enterprises."

Report on Conditions in Detention.  Amnesty International Australia, October 2010. Darwin Asti APOD: The site was extremely overcrowded with families living in very close proximity to each other. Despite the extreme heat, there is practically no shade or areas where children can play.  There is no grass area either as the site is all concreted. There is no suitable space for activities to be conducted. Many of the women Al spoke to feared they were losing thier minds from boredom and anxiety at the uncertainty of their situation.  The women told Al that nearly all of them were on anti depressant and sleeping medication.

Immigration Detention on Christmas Island.  Australian Human Rights Commission, October 2010.
While Children are no longer held in high security immigration detention centres, they are still detained in lower security detention facilities. On Christmas island, they are detained in the Construction Camp immigration detention facility. While DIAC categorises teh Construction Camp as 'alternative temporary detention in the community', the commission reiterates it's view that this is misleading.
This one is old but the TPV debate unfortunately keeps rearing its head and this report reminds us of the uneccessary and costly damage caused by this visa class:
Temporary Protection: Permanent Uncertainty July 2003 Greg Marston reports TPVs mean more children undertake risky journeys as family reunions are not allowed. Lives continue to be lived in limbo. Employers discriminate against TPV holders. Depression abounds and mental health deteriorates. We know all this. These are the reasons the ALP abandoned the TPV regime and yet it is again being bandied about as a panacea.