Annual Report 2010–11

Programs 4.2, 4.3 and 4.4—immigration detention statistics and services

This section provides combined key statistics and results for support programs and services provided to all clients in immigration detention—including unlawful non-citizens (program 4.2), unauthorised arrivals (program 4.3) and illegal foreign fishers (program 4.4).

Key statistics

In 2010–11, there was a 34 per cent increase in the total numbers of people in immigration detention from 9802 people in 2009–10 to 13 134 people in 2010–11.

As shown in Figure 14, during 2010–11, 8874 people were taken into immigration detention, compared to 8749 in
2009–10, an increase of one per cent.

Figure 14: People taken into immigration detention

People taken into immigration detention

Figure 15 shows the number of people in immigration detention in Australia from 1990 to 2011. The rise in the number of irregular maritime arrivals detained is represented by peaks in 1999, 2002 and 2010.

Figure 15: Population in immigration detention from 1 January 1990 to 30 June 2011

opulation in immigration detention from 1 January 1990 to 30 June 2011

At 30 June 2011, there were 6403 people in immigration detention compared to 4077 at 30 June 2010.

These included 6067 IMAs, 64 unauthorised air arrivals, 236 people who had been living in the community but had overstayed or breached visa conditions, six foreign fishers and 30 others such as stowaways, ship deserters and babies born to parents in immigration detention.

Figure 16: People in immigration detention by arrival type at 30 June 2011

People in immigration detention by arrival type at 30 June 2011

Of the 8874 people taken into immigration detention during 2010–11:

  • 1839 were people who had been living in the community but overstayed or breached visa conditions, representing 21 per cent of the total
  • 87 were foreign fishers, representing one per cent of the total
  • 6678 were unauthorised arrivals (1768 by air and 4910 IMAs by boat), representing 75 per cent of the total
  • 270 were in the 'other' categories such as stowaways, ship deserters and babies born to parents in immigration detention, representing three per cent of the total.

Figure 17: People entering immigration detention by arrival type in 2010–11

PPeople entering immigration detention by arrival type in 2010-11

Community detention program

On 18 October 2010, the Prime Minister and the minister announced that the government would move the majority of children and a significant number of vulnerable families into community detention by the end of June 2011.

Residence determination, commonly referred to as community detention was introduced in 2005 to enable children, families with children and people with special needs to be placed in detention in the community rather than in a secure immigration detention centre while their immigration status is resolved. Placement in the community is only considered following appropriate health and security checks.

Clients placed in community detention must reside at a nominated address and comply with other conditions, which include regular reporting to the department.

As at 30 June 2011, 1551 people were residing in community-based arrangements or had been approved for such arrangements and were transferring to their accommodation. Of the 1551 clients approved for community detention 33 were onshore clients, 1499 were IMAs and 19 were babies born in community detention remaining 310 clients who were approved for community detention, 306 were granted protection visas and four returned voluntarily to their country of origin.

The Australian Red Cross (ARC) is the lead agency for the implementation of the expanded residence determination arrangements and is drawing on the expertise of a wide range of experienced service providers in the community, faith-based and welfare sectors, to source accommodation, residential/out-of-home care, case work and other services.

The department is managing the implementation and expansion of the program and the CISSR is working closely with the department and the ARC to support this process.

The Residence Determination Reference Group advises the department on the development of the overall service model and implementation processes to support the expansion of the residence determination arrangements.

Table 60: People approved to live in community detention

Program 2009–10 2010–11
Onshore 31 33
Irregular maritime arrivals 130 1499
Illegal foreign fishers 0 0
Babies born in community detention - 19
Total 161 1551

Detention services

Detention centre management

Contracts with Serco, the department's service provider ensure compliance with all the requirements for immigration detention centres and the delivery of a range of support, health and detention services in detention environments in accordance with immigration detention values. Health services are delivered to people in detention under a different contract with health service providers.

The department closely monitors the compliance of Serco with the requirements of the Detention Services Contract for Immigration Detention Centres (IDC) and the Services Contract for Immigration Residential Housing (IRH) and Immigration Transit Accommodation (ITA). The contract requires that clients in immigration detention are treated fairly and reasonably within the law and their inherent dignity is maintained at all times.

Incidents of non-compliance with the detention services contract are considered at monthly intervals. The contract administrator may raise financial sanctions against the contractor for breaches identified in the Performance Management Manual which is reviewed annually.

Detention health

The department ensures the provision of comprehensive health care services, equivalent to those available to the general Australian population, to all people in immigration detention. These services are either provided on-site at places of detention by the department's contracted health services provider, International Health and Medical Services (IHMS), or through a network of community-based health providers. All health care services are delivered by qualified health professionals, including general practitioners, nurses and mental health professionals.

All people in immigration detention have access to clinically recommended physical and mental health care that addresses their diverse and potentially complex health care needs. The department acknowledges the unique circumstances of people in immigration detention, in particular clients who arrive by boat as possible survivors of torture and trauma, who are at risk of poor mental health and self-harming behaviour.

The department has two separate contracts with IHMS for the management of health care services to people in immigration detention, one for the Australian mainland and the other for Christmas Island.

Through these contracts, IHMS is responsible for the provision of all health care services, with the exception of acute care, hospital services and torture and trauma counselling.

Emergency health services for immigration detention clients are provided by local hospitals. Specialist services are generally provided off-site by referral to an IHMS community network provider. The provision of health services is in line with community standards and the same public waiting lists usually apply.

Torture and trauma counselling is provided by member organisations of the Forum of Australian Services for Survivors of Torture and Trauma (FASSTT) for places of immigration detention on the mainland and by the Indian Ocean Territories Health Service (IOTHS) on Christmas Island. IOTHS is an agency of the Department of Regional Australia.

In 2010–11, more than 100 000 individual health services were delivered to clients in immigration detention facilities, an increase from 14 473 in 2009–10. This increase is attributable to the increased number of clients, in particular IMAs.

Depending on how a person arrives on Christmas Island, either a Customs medical officer or an IHMS health professional conducts a public health screening assessment for communicable diseases, including tuberculosis, before or upon arrival on Christmas Island.

All people entering immigration detention receive a health induction assessment (HIA) within 72 hours of arrival. As part of the HIA, people are screened for pre-existing medical conditions, including communicable diseases and undergo a mental state examination. The HIA is conducted to inform an ongoing health care plan, and to assess people for any health issues including mental health concerns, signs of torture and trauma and physical health conditions. Subsequent health assessments are also provided.

Health care for people living in community detention

The department works closely with IHMS and the ARC to provide health services for clients living in community detention.

In 2010–11, IHMS increased its number of community-based health service providers by more than 40 per cent, from 494 providers in 2009–10 to more than 700 in 2010–11, as a direct response to the rapid increase of clients transferred to community detention.

Care of minors

As a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and in recognition of the vulnerable status of minors, the Australian Government takes its obligations towards minors very seriously.

In accordance with government policy, minors and their families are held in the least restrictive form of immigration detention available. Minors who are required to spend time in immigration detention are accommodated in alternative places of detention or in community detention arrangements. Care and support is provided to minors in detention to cater to their specific educational, social and medical needs. All minors in detention are case managed to ensure their case progresses in the shortest time possible.

Unaccompanied minors are non-citizen children under the age of 18 years who arrive in Australia without a parent or adult relative to care for them. Unaccompanied minors who do not have a suitable relative become wards of the minister under the Immigration Guardianship of Children Act 1946 (IGOC Act).

The minister delegates his function as guardian of wards in immigration detention to officers of the department. Departmental officers ensure that where a parent or guardian is unavailable, minors who are in detention receive appropriate care and have access to an independent person who ensures the child's best interests are observed during interview procedures and when signing official documents.

Care for unaccompanied minors

Life Without Barriers provides care and support services to unaccompanied minors (UAMs) accommodated within alternative places of detention (APODs) and community detention on mainland Australia. Under the IGOC Act, the minister is the guardian of all unaccompanied minors in immigration detention and as such the minister has a particular responsibility to protect the welfare of UAMs.

Life Without Barriers is the contracted service provider to perform this responsibility. Life Without Barriers also facilitates skills development opportunities, English language classes, day-to-day living skills and recreational activities, which supplement those provided by the contracted service provider at facilities. During 2011, Life Without Barriers also provided cultural awareness training to departmental case managers and Serco staff.

In making decisions concerning the welfare and care of unaccompanied minors in immigration detention facilities, the department draws upon the advice of people with expertise in child welfare, including psychologists and state child welfare authorities.

Furthermore, Life Without Barriers is the contracted provider of independent observer services on Christmas Island and mainland Australia. The independent observer can be required to provide pastoral or physical support to a young person throughout entry or intelligence interviews.

While there is no legislative requirement for an independent observer to be present during an interview or discussion with an unaccompanied minor, the minister and the department owe a duty of care to those people in immigration detention. The independent observer builds rapport with the minor, with the intention of being able to reassure and assist them while their immigration status is being resolved.

A contract was signed with Life Without Barriers on 30 June 2010, extending the provision of services from July 2010 to 31 December 2011.

The Australian Government and state and territory governments work together to provide settlement services to unaccompanied minors who have been granted a visa under the Humanitarian Program. Some support for unaccompanied humanitarian minors is provided by not-for-profit service providers.

Oversight and consultation

Detention Health Advisory Group

The Detention Health Advisory Group (DeHAG) is the key advisory group to the department on matters concerning the design, implementation and monitoring of improvements in detention health policy and procedures.

DeHAG was convened in March 2006 and is chaired by Professor Louise Newman AM.
The group is made up of nominated representatives of key health professional organisations, including the:

  • Australian Medical Association
  • Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatry
  • Royal College of Nursing Australia
  • Public Health Association of Australia
  • Royal Australian College of General Practitioners
  • Australian Dental Association.

In addition, the Ombudsman's Office has observer status.

DeHAG has two sub-groups, the Community and Public Health Sub-Group and the Mental Health Sub-Group. These sub-groups meet regularly to discuss issues of concern across the detention network with a view to providing recommendations to the department on how to better manage both the physical and mental health of clients.

During 2010–11, against the background of a large number of people in immigration detention, the department sought the advice of DeHAG on a wide range of issues, particularly those arising from its schedule of inspections of places of immigration detention. DeHAG, through its sub-groups, also provided expert independent advice in relation to detention health policies, procedures and practices. Members of DeHAG visited the most active mainland places of immigration detention in 2010–11 and Christmas Island.

Engagement with DeHAG represents a significant step forward for the department in working in an open and accountable manner with key health stakeholders to improve the general and mental health of all people under the department's care.

In 2010–11, the department completed the roll-out of three new mental health policies across the immigration detention network. These policies were developed in consultation with DeHAG and reflect best-practice approaches for identifying and supporting survivors of torture and trauma and for minimising self-harm in immigration detention. The department has trained more than 1200 departmental staff and individuals from non-government agencies/organisations in the operation of these policies.

Community and Public Health Sub-Group

In recognition of potential issues relating to communicable diseases and large numbers of people in immigration detention, the department agreed to the establishment of a Community and Public Health Sub-Group of DeHAG in 2010. This sub-group provides independent expert advice in relation to public health issues and issues relevant to the health of clients living in the community—both as bridging visa holders and in community detention.

In 2010–11, the Community and Public Health Sub-Group provided valuable guidance with respect to persons at risk of tuberculosis and to health care for minors in immigration detention.

Mental Health Sub-Group

The DeHAG Mental Health Sub-Group was formed in March 2007 to develop new mental health policy, which was further implemented in 2010–11 and to advise generally on mental health issues.

In response to advice from the Mental Health Sub-Group, particularly in relation to levels of self-harm, the department and IHMS have developed a modular Mental Health Awareness/Mental Health Policy Awareness training program for delivery on-site at places of immigration detention for IHMS, Serco and departmental staff.

A pilot training program will begin in July 2011 at the Leonora APOD and at places of immigration detention in Darwin with a view to finalising the program for roll-out to all immigration detention facilities. These new training arrangements will complement those already in place for departmental staff though the College of Immigration.

During 2010–11, other priorities for the Mental Health Sub-Group included:

  • advising on policies relating to the use of restrictive detention
  • advising on self-harm prevention and management.

Council for Immigration Services and Status Resolution

The Council for Immigration Services and Status Resolution (CISSR) provides independent advice to the minister on policy development, processes, services and programs needed to achieve the timely, fair and effective resolution of immigration status for people seeking asylum or other migration outcomes in Australia. More information about CISSR is available.
See: Status resolution

Public scrutiny

During 2010–11, immigration detention centres and other places of detention were visited by several independent organisations, including the Commonwealth Ombudsman's office, the Australian Human Rights Commission and the ARC which provided reports and feedback to the department to support continued improvement to the delivery of services and support to people in immigration detention.