Refugee Council of Australia
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Statistics on people in detention in Australia

Where are people in detention in Australia?

Types of detention in Australia

People in Australia who do not have a valid visa are required by law to be detained (which is why Australia has a policy of ‘mandatory detention’). This includes people who come to Australia and claim asylum without a valid visa (typically by boat), but also includes other people, including people who have had their visas (including protection, refugee and humanitarian visas) cancelled by the government.

People can be detained in places where they cannot leave, known as ‘closed detention’ or ‘held detention’. These may be in places that are specifically designed to hold people, such as Immigration Detention Centres (IDCs) or Immigration Transit Accommodation (ITAs) or other kinds of places such as hotels, hospitals and aged care homes (‘Alternative Places of Detention’, or APODs’). All of these places are called ‘detention facilities’, and this kind of detention is referred to as ‘closed’ or ‘held’ detention.

Another kind of detention is where the Minister requires the person to be held in a certain place in the community on specific conditions, under a ‘residence determination’, or what is more commonly referred to as ‘community detention’. This page also covers community detention.

Australia’s detention policies

The Minister can also release a person from detention by granting a ‘bridging visa’ that allows them to live in the community while their visa status is being resolved. Statistics on these people can be found in our statistics on people seeking asylum in the community.

Statistics on people seeking asylum in the community

How many people are in closed detention?

As of 31 December 2023, there were 872 people in detention facilities. This included 824 men and 48 women. This drop is partly because of the High Court’s decision on 8 November 2023 regarding the constitutionality of detention (NZYQ).

Refugee Council welcomes decision on detention

Note that the monthly statistics only show how many people are in detention at a point in time (at the end of each month).

The following graph shows how many people were released as a result of that decision.

Change over time

There has been significant change in the number of people in closed detention in the past ten years. The current figure is a significant decrease from the peak of 10,201 in July 2013. However, it is high when compared to 375 in January 2009.

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