17 February 2020 - Immigration Detention Oversight - Report into the current state of immigration detention facilities

Today, the Commonwealth Ombudsman Michael Manthorpe PSM published a report about his Office’s activities in overseeing immigration detention during the first half of 2019.

This report summarises the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s oversight of immigration detention facilities during the period from January to June 2019. It draws on observations from the Office’s inspections of immigration detention centres during the period, as well as other aspects of its oversight including handling complaints and preparing assessments of the circumstances of people in long-term detention.

This Office has conducted inspections of immigration detention facilities since 2011.  Previously the Office has shared its observations directly with the department, the ABF and their service providers and published a summary in the Ombudsman’s annual report. This report marks the first instance in which the Ombudsman has publicly released a report regarding his Office’s activities in overseeing immigration detention.

In 2018 the Ombudsman’s Office was made the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) with responsibility for inspecting places of detention under the control of the Commonwealth, in line with the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT), which Australia ratified in 2017. The Office is also the NPM Coordinator for Australia. In this capacity, the Ombudsman has decided to commence regularly publishing information about the Office’s work in oversighting immigration detention. From 2021 the Office will also commence inspecting places of detention operated by the Australian Defence Force and the Australian Federal Police, and we intend to prepare similar reports on the results of those inspections.

During the period covered by the report, the Office conducted inspections of immigration detention facilities in Brisbane QLD, Adelaide SA, Perth WA, Northam WA, Villawood NSW and Melbourne VIC. These inspections were undertaken using the Ombudsman’s own motion powers under the Ombudsman Act 1976.

The report outlines concerns the Office has about the facilities within modular high security compounds in immigration detention facilities. These concerns have been communicated to the department and the ABF, and the relevant facilities will continue to be a focus of inspections.

The report also highlights the Ombudsman’s concerns with respect to the very long duration of detention of some detainees.

The Office will continue to monitor these issues and report on progress in future reports.