Refugee Council of Australia
Passport with Australia immigration stamp

Recent changes in Australian refugee policy

Immigration detention

Indefinite mandatory detention

People who arrive without a valid visa (by sea or air) must be detained by law without any time limit. As of 26 April 2018, 1,369 people were held in closed immigration detention facilities in Australia, 349 of whom had arrived by boat. The average length of detention in closed detention facilities was 434 days, with 461 people (34% of detention population) having been detained for over a year and 264 for more than two years. As of 26 April 2018, seven children were held in closed detention facilities in Australia.

Australia’s detention policies

Statistics on people in detention in Australia

Community placements

Statistics on people seeking asylum in the community

Although people without a valid visa are to be detained by law, they can be released at the discretion of the Government into either community detention or the community on a bridging visa E (BVE).

Between October 2010 and 2012, the Government increasingly released people into community detention, but since then people have been mainly released on BVEs. As of 26 April 2018, there were 457 people (including 180 children) in community detention and 18,027 people living in the community after the grant of a BVE.

People in community detention can move freely, but must live at an address specified by the Minister for Immigration and need permission to spend a night elsewhere. They are subject to curfews and other supervision arrangements.

BVEs allow people to live in the community while their protection claims are being decided. Most people on these visas have access to Australia’s universal healthcare system, Medicare. In the past, most also received a basic living allowance equivalent to 89% of Centrelink Special Benefit (about $35 a day for a single adult without children). In the past year however, the Government has significantly restricted eligibility criteria for accessing this support and there are further plans to reduce the numbers on support by an estimated 60%.

Roof Over My Head campaign

Be a champion for refugee rights

Join our mailing list and be the first to receive active resources. We need you to show Australia cares about refugees.


  • Category

  • Topic