The Limitations of Monitoring Immigration Detention in Australia

Australia’s mandatory detention policy allows for non-citizens without a valid visa to be held in sites of immigration detention on an indefinite basis. This means that asylum seekers who arrive without a valid visa can be detained from their time of arrival to Australia until their protection claim is finalised, unless ministerial discretion is exercised to enable their release into the community. Thousands of asylum seekers who arrived by boat have consequently endured long periods of indefinite detention in prison-like conditions in facilities established by the Australian Government, both within Australia and in offshore locations. Many of these sites are in remote locations and there is limited monitoring provided by formal state and non-state bodies across this detention network that is systematic, transparent and independent. There are also few civil society groups and individuals with the capacity to assume a monitoring role. This article explores the inhibiting factors of monitoring immigration detention in Australia and offshore locations, and the prospects for securing systematic and transparent independent scrutiny should Australia ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT). It also highlights the limits of an OPCAT-consistent monitoring system in the promotion and protection of the rights of asylum seekers.


Caroline Fleay is a Senior Lecturer, Humanities Research and Graduate Studies at the Centre for Human Rights Education, Curtin University.

Publish Date: 
November, 2015
Publication title: 
AJHR 21-1
Publication URL: