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Fact Sheet 83 – Community detention

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The Community Detention Programme allows detainees in immigration detention to live in the community while seeking to resolve their immigration status.

Under the Migration Act 1958, only the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection can approve a detainee for community detention. This cannot be challenged in court.

Community detainees do not receive a visa, therefore, they do not have the same rights as a person on a visa living in the community.

We regularly update community detainees on the progress of their immigration status.

Priority for community detention

Detainees cannot apply to enter the Community Detention Programme. We select detainees based on various factors including:

  • character
  • security and identity issues
  • age
  • family composition
  • health
  • any unique or exceptional circumstances
  • the detainee's likelihood of compliance with community detention conditions
  • the detainee's interaction with immigration processes.

Unaccompanied minors, families with young children, and other vulnerable families and adults are given priority.

Entry to the programme is completely voluntary, however, the minister must approve each detainee who is placed in the programme.

Conditions for community detention

All community detainees must follow certain conditions which are communicated to them before they enter the programme.

Some conditions include:

  • abiding by Australian laws and regulations
  • reporting regularly to us
  • living at the residential address specified by the minister
  • not participating in paid work.

If community detainees do not follow these conditions, the minister might choose to return them to an immigration detention facility.

What checks will be undertaken before a detainee is placed in community detention?

We will check the detainee's identity, health, character and any security concerns before deciding to transfer a detainee into community detention. Detainees who are considered to be a security risk, through the advice of security agencies, will not be transferred.

How is care provided in community detention?

We manage the Community Detention Programme in partnership with the following contracted service providers:

  • Australian Red Cross
  • Life Without Barriers
  • Anglicare
  • Adult Multicultural Education Services
  • Wesley Mission
  • ACCESS Community Services
  • Mercy Community Services
  • The Salvation Army
  • Multicultural Development Association
  • MacKillop Family Services
  • Marist Youth Care
  • Mercy Community Services SEQ.

These service providers could also be supported by other subcontracted non-government organisations.

The Community Detention Programme provides:

  • housing (no public housing is used)
  • care for unaccompanied minors
  • case management
  • an allowance to meet daily living costs.

Children in the programme have access to schooling and both adults and children have access to English language classes.

International Health and Medical Services is contracted to provide health care.

Care for unaccompanied minors

Unaccompanied minors receive a higher level of support while in community detention. They live with a full-time qualified carer in a group house arrangement with other unaccompanied minors. We pay their rent, food and other household items. Unaccompanied minors receive
a small weekly allowance to pay for things such as transport or personal items.
See: Fact Sheet 69 – Caring for unaccompanied minors – Currently under review

How long will community detainees live in community detention?

Community detainees will live in community detention until their immigration status is resolved, they are granted a visa to reside in the community or the minister makes a decision to return them to an immigration detention facility.

What happens if a community detainee breaks the law while living in community detention?

Community detainees are subject to the Australian criminal and civil justice system, as is everyone else in the Australian community. They are subject to the same penalties as anyone else if they are convicted of a crime and sentenced by an Australian court. The minister might choose to return a community detainee to an immigration detention facility where they have not followed their conditions or have broken the law.

What is the difference between community detention and living in the community on a bridging visa?

Illegal Maritime Arrivals (IMAs) on bridging visas have the freedom to choose where they live and receive a different level of support to community detainees.

The government grants bridging visas to detainees in immigration detention so they can live in the community while seeking to resolve their immigration.

Community detainees can request to be considered for the grant of a bridging visa. The minister decides whether a detainee is eligible for a bridging visa based on various factors  including:

  • health
  • identity
  • security.

See: Fact Sheet 65 – Bridging visas for illegal maritime arrivals

Community detention statistics

The latest immigration detention statistics, including community detention placements, can be accessed on our website.
See: About immigration detention

Fact Sheet 83. Produced by the National Communications Branch, Department of Immigration and Border Protection, Canberra.

Last reviewed Wednesday 27 August 2014