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The Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) publishes on its website monthly and yearly statistics about  people it detains. Its monthly statistics include the number of people in detention facilities in Australia, offshore processing centres, and in the community (either under a ‘residence determination’, or with a ‘bridging visa’.)

The following statistics focus on detention in Australia. There are different kinds of places where people are detained, known as Immigration Detention Centres (IDCs), Immigration Residential Housing (IRHs), Immigration Transit Accommodation (ITAs), and Alternative Places of Detention (APODs).

The graphs on this page are interactive. You can see more information by moving your cursor over the graphs.

Number of people in detention in Australia

On 30 November 2017, there were 1,301 people in detention facilities.  This included 95 women, less than five children (as the Department does not identify numbers lower than five), and 1,202 men.

There has been significant change in the number of people detained in the past ten years. The current figure is a significant decrease from 5,697 in January 2013. However, it is high when compared to 375 in January 2009.

Children in detention

This graph shows the number of children in held detention (usually not in immigration detention centres, but in other kinds of facilities), as well as the number living in the community under a residence determination.

While children are not generally placed in detention centres, there have been some cases. In April 2013, 31 children were placed in Northern IDC in Darwin. In July 2014, 157 Sri Lankan people seeking asylum by boat were detained on an Australian customs vessel for four weeks. People in this group, including 50 children as young as one, were detained in Curtin detention centre in WA before being transferred to  Nauru. These 50 children are not included in the graph as they were not included in the monthly detention statistics published by the Department of Immigration.

Time in detention

These graphs show how long people are spending in detention in Australia. Each bar shows how many people have been detained for the corresponding time period, as at the end of each financial year (30 June). Before 2013-14, individuals were mainly spending three months or less in detention. Since then, the time spent in detention has increased very significantly.

Note: in earlier years, only the period ’91 days or less’ were indicated in the statistics. This has been broken down in later years.

The average number of days people spend in detention has been increasing since late 2013, although in late 2017 the average reduced a little.

A Commonwealth Ombudsman’s report on long-term immigration detention found that 13% of the long-term cases of detention it  reported on had been in detention for 4 years or more, compared with 25% in 2014-15. There were also 42 people who had been detained for 5 years or more, who were unlikely to be released.

Reasons for detention

The graphs to the right show the proportion of people in detention according to the reason for their detention.

It is clear that, from a low point in the period of 2002-08, the proportion of people detained for arriving by boat has greatly increased. However, since the start of offshore processing and changes that have increased the cancellation of visas on character grounds, the percentage of people seeking asylum in detention has decreased.

By 2016-2017, 27.1% of people in detention were detained for arriving by boat, 20.2% for overstaying their visa, 47.5% as a result of visa cancellation, and 4.5% came by plane without a valid visa.

This work was only made possible through the contributions of volunteers, past and present, including: Amna Bakhtiar, Stephen Fodorocy, Michael Li, and Andrew Lok.


Number of people in onshore detention

Number of children in onshore detention

Length of time in onshore detention

Reason for detention