Immigration detention monitoring

Protecting the health, wellbeing and dignity of people in immigration detention.

Our Immigration Detention Monitoring Program monitors the conditions of immigration detention and how people are treated in immigration detention in Australia.

We aim to prevent and reduce harm and suffering and empower people in detention.

Australian Red Cross has now been providing services to people in immigration detention in Australia for more than thirty years, and since 2010, we have formally monitored places of immigration detention in Australia. To this day, Red Cross is still the only humanitarian organisation that visits all detention facilities on a regular basis.

Teams of Red Cross Humanitarian Observers regularly visit immigration detention facilities in Australia. Our teams inspect detention facilities, speak with people in detention, and meet with detention service providers to identify issues of humanitarian concern. We then confidentially discuss our concerns with the Australian Government and detention service providers to try to resolve these issues and to prevent and reduce harm.

We also work closely with the Restoring Family Links service to help people in detention facilities to restore their contact with their loved ones.

Our program also supports the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in its monitoring visits offshore.

We conduct our work in strict accordance with the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement Fundamental Principles.

  • We act for humanity and seek to prevent and alleviate human suffering. Our focus is on the humanitarian needs of people in detention. Where possible, we provide advice on how to minimise harm and promote respect for humanitarian values.
  • We are impartial. We offer our services to all people in detention, regardless of where they came from, how they arrived in Australia, or why they are in detention.
  • We work in a neutral manner. We do not seek to become involved in political or public debates. In order to discuss sensitive issues openly and constructively, and in accordance with our approach to humanitarian diplomacy, our dialogue with people in detention, with service providers, and with the authorities, remains confidential.
  • Red Cross works independently from the Australian Government. Our program is independently funded using money donated by generous Red Cross supporters in the Australian community.
  • Red Cross relies on the voluntary service of volunteers not prompted in any manner by desire for gain. Our team has highly skilled and trained staff and volunteers from diverse and relevant backgrounds.
  • We abide by the principle of unity. We are a national program operating in all states and territories where immigration detention facilities operate.
  • We also work in accordance with the principle of universality. Australian Red Cross is a National Society of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, an international humanitarian movement with approximately 97 million volunteers, members and staff worldwide. As a part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, we have developed programs in immigration detention over the last three decades with access to an extraordinary wealth of international experience and expertise in the field.

Our work is conducted in accordance with a set of Guiding Principles that set out Red Cross expectations about immigration detention. These Guiding Principles are:

  1. All people in immigration detention should be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of the reason for, or location of, their detention.
  2. Where detention is considered necessary, it should be used only as a last resort, for the shortest practicable time and after an assessment of its necessity in each individual case. Detention, beyond that required for initial health and security screening, should be reviewed by an independent authority on a regular basis, with reviews occurring with increased frequency for longer term detention.
  3. While awaiting an immigration outcome and beyond, the restoration of family links is a priority.
  4. Authorities are responsible for the provision of appropriate services and support to ensure the health and wellbeing of people in detention is in line with Australian community standards and takes into consideration the particular and complex vulnerabilities of people in detention.
  5. Children (including those without their parents) should not be detained in immigration detention facilities. Where detention has been deemed necessary, detention should be community based wherever possible.
  6. Facilities should be based in locations with appropriate access to health and welfare services, a wide range of meaningful activities and excursions, appropriate community, and cultural, religious and linguistic supports. These are most usually found in metropolitan areas.
  7. People in detention should have access to oversight agencies and independent legal advice, appropriately facilitated by detention service providers or authorities, in order to minimise and respond to protection risks, address complaints and ensure appropriate support for vulnerable people.
  8. Assessment of protection claims - and any other immigration status resolution matters - should occur in a timely manner, with appropriate legal and judicial safeguards, and people should be kept regularly informed as to the status of their claim/immigration matter.
  9. People in immigration detention should be treated fairly and reasonably within the law.
  10. The Australian Government retains significant humanitarian responsibilities for people it transfers to another country, not only for ensuring respect for these principles, but also for subsequent durable solutions, be it resettlement, local integration or return.

Red Cross is a respected, experienced and impartial organisation that people in detention can approach about any issues of concern. Many people in detention recognise Red Cross from their home countries and feel safe talking to us.

We work to persuade governments, public authorities and decision makers to act in the interests of vulnerable people in detention, always being mindful of their humanitarian needs.

The way we work in places of immigration detention is based on the ways of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Globally, the ICRC monitors the conditions of people detained as prisoners of war, civilians detained during conflict, and others detained in situations of violence.

Contact us

If you are in immigration detention in Australia or would like more information about our program, you can contact the Immigration Detention Monitoring team.

More information

  • Learn more about how we help people seeking asylum seeker, refugees and migrants.
  • Contact Red Cross offices in your State or Territory.

Help for people in detention

If you or someone you know needs help.

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