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Immigration Detention. What to do if You Have Been Detained.

Immigration Detention. What is it? Why people end up there? How to get out.


What is Immigration Detention?

Immigration detention is a place of detention for people who do not hold a visa to be in Australia. If you are detained by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, you will likely end up in an onshore Immigration Detention Centre (IDC). Once this occurs you will no longer be free to leave the detention centre and your communication with the outside world will be limited.

Your documents and possessions will also be held by the authorities and you will have limited access to these until your release or removal from Australia.

At time of writing, there are approximately 1,700 people in Immigration Detention Centres (IDC’s) on the Australian mainland and another 300 people are subject to alternative immigration detention arrangements. There is currently 1,600 detainees in Regional Processing Centres on Nauru Island and Papua New Guinea.*


Why do people end up in Immigration Detention?

Everyone in immigration detention is an ‘Unlawful Non-Citizen’ (‘UNC’). This means that they do not hold an Australian visa or the right to live in Australia (Citizenship or Permanent Residency). The reason why people become UNC’s and end up in detention can vary. Typically it’s because:

– they arrived here without a visa (for example by boat)
– they overstayed their Australia visa (stayed too long and did not return home after the visa expiry)
– their visa was cancelled by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection for breach of visa conditions (i.e.: they had a visa then lost it – see blog on visa cancellation) LINK TO CANCELLATION BLOG


What happens after you are placed into Immigration Detention?

Typically, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection will seek to have the UNC deported or removed from Australia. This usually results in return to their home country. However, this may not always be possible as their travel documents (Passport) may not be in order or the home country may not facilitate their return. Where the immigration breach is not considered too serious (e.g. a visa overstayer who was UNC for a short period of time) and the is not deemed a danger to the community (criminal history in Australia) assuming they agree to make departure arrangements, it is likely that they may be eligible to apply for and be granted a bridging visa (short term visa to depart voluntarily). Once a Bridging Visa has been granted the person will then be released into the community.

In most cases, special Immigration Detention arrangements are made for families and children in detention. The Government seeks to avoid (where possible) children being detained. In this circumstance community detention may be more appropriate.


How do you get out of Immigration Detention?

The only way to be released from Immigration Detention is through a visa grant or removal from Australia (this is also known as deportation).

Typically the visas which a UNC may be eligible for are bridging visas E or F but most commonly a Bridging Visa E (BVE) (subclass 050). A BVE is usually granted on the basis of departure arrangements, lodging another substantive visa or seeking judicial review of a decision.

UNC’s have limited visa rights once in detention, and strict timeframes apply for lodging a substantive visa application (48 hours) with apossible extension in writing.

As a UNC in detention you may only apply for a limited number of substantive visas such as humanitarian, protection family and partner visas. This is also depend upon the information and timeframes provided in the Very Important Notice (VIN) which will be provided to you at the time of detention.


What to do if you are in Immigration Detention?

If you are in detention, seek professional HELP IMMEDIATELY.

Your appeal and visa rights are limited and timeframes are critical to your success. Your case is complex and being in detention is a stressful, uncertain and confusing environment. A professional and reputable Migration Agent or Immigration Lawyer will walk you through the process and try to reduce your concern and anxiety.

Fortunately, UNC’s have access to the internet and mobile phones in the detention centre, this will provide you the ability to contact a reputable Migration Agent or Immigration Lawyer for HELP.

Where a UNC has a visa application being considered, they typically cannot be removed from Australia, however being in Detention will likely speed up the visa decision process, and as a result this is not a viable or ongoing solution to avoid removal in the longer term.