The Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman investigates complaints about the immigration functions of the Department of Home Affairs. We explore systemic issues that can arise from complaints. The complaints we receive are about general immigration matters like visa processing delays, detention issues and complaints about the Australian Border Force (ABF), such as customs-related issues. We also monitor the department’s compliance activities and detention centres. Monitoring of visa compliance activities involves looking at the issuing of warrants that allow ABF officers to enter a home when there is a reasonable cause to believe that a person is residing unlawfully in Australia. We also regularly inspect immigration detention facilities. We have a statutory reporting function to report to the minister on people who have been detained for more than two years.
In 2005, the department now known as the Department of Home Affairs became the focus of intense external scrutiny following its administration of two individual cases: one was an Australian permanent resident who was illegally detained; and the other was an Australian citizen who was illegally removed from Australia. Following an inquiry into those cases, the government expanded the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s role to have an Immigration Ombudsman function, providing external scrutiny of Department of Home Affairs.
What the Immigration Ombudsman does
We can investigate complaints about the administrative actions taken by the department and the ABF that are within our jurisdiction. Matters outside our jurisdiction include complaints arising from decisions made by the Minister for Home Affairs.
When we receive a complaint, we will assess it to decide what action to take. We may decide not to investigate a complaint if:
- the matter complained about is more than 12 months old
- the complainant has not yet complained to DIBP or the department
- there is no prospect of obtaining a remedy to the complaint.
We will advise you of the outcome of our assessment of your complaint, including by explaining the investigation process and what to do if you disagree with our decision.
Click here for more information about making a complaint to the Ombudsman’s Office. http://www.ombudsman.gov.au/making-a-complaint].
The Ombudsman’s Office monitors ABF’s visa compliance activities involving locating, detaining and removing unlawful non-citizens. Our monitoring is to ensure that the department’s processes are lawful and in accordance with good administrative practice.
Immigration detention assessments
When a person has been in immigration detention for two years, and then every six months if they remain in immigration detention, the Secretary of the department must give the Ombudsman a report, relating to the circumstances of the person's detention. The Ombudsman has a statutory role under s 486O of the Migration Act 1958 to give the Minister for Home Affairs an assessment of the appropriateness of the arrangements for the person’s detention.
The Ombudsman’s Office conducts regular inspections of immigration detention centres under the Ombudsman's own motion powers, and in accordance with our jurisdiction, considers the actions of agencies and their subcontractors.