Background to Immigration Detention
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Australia's Migration Act 1958 requires people who are not Australian citizens and who are unlawfully in Australia to be detained. Unless they are given legal permission to remain in Australia by being granted a visa unlawful non-citizens must be removed from Australia as soon as reasonably practicable.
This requirement reflects Australia's right to determine who is permitted to enter and remain in Australia and the conditions under which those who cannot remain may be detained and removed.
Immigration detention is not used to punish people. It is an administrative function whereby people who do not have a valid visa are detained while their claims to stay are considered or their removal is facilitated.
People who are not Australian citizens are 'unlawful' if they do not have a valid visa giving them permission to be in Australia. Usually, 'unlawful non-citizens' are people who have:
- arrived in Australia without a visa
- overstayed their visa
- had their visa cancelled.
Immigration detention plays a significant role in maintaining the integrity of Australia's migration and refugee and humanitarian programs. Australia's immigration detention policy was introduced in 1992 and has been maintained by successive governments.
The main focus of the immigration detention policy is to ensure that:
- people who arrive without lawful authority do not enter the Australian community until their identity and status have been properly assessed and they have been granted a visa
- people who do not have authority to be in Australia are available for removal from Australia.
The care and security of accommodation for people in immigration detention is based on humane principles and standards. A suite of immigration detention placements have been developed to place people in immigration detention in living arrangements that are appropriate to their needs.