Asylum seekers are spending longer in detention than ever before.

Asylum seekers are spending an average of 445 days in immigration detention.

That’s over 14 months.

It’s a really long time to be locked up, either in onshore detention facilities or offshore centers on Nauru and Manus Island.

“The average period of time for people held in detention facilities steadily increased from July 2013 to January 2015,” the December 2015 detention and community statistics report from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection says.

“Between January 2015 and March 2015, the average period of time for people in held detention facilities decreased.

“Since May 2015, the average days in held immigration detention has increased steadily, exceeding the peak of January 2015.”

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has criticised the wait times.

“Labor supports regional processing but the idea that we have got people languishing in Australian facilities, or facilities partly funded by Australia for periods of 450 days on average, is too long,” he said.

“Women and children should not be languishing indefinitely.”

While the amount of time in detention has increased, the number of detainees has fallen significantly.

When the Coalition came to office in September 2013, detainees were spending an average of around 100 days in immigration detention.

In August 2015, when Malcolm Turnbull became Prime Minister, the average time was closer to 400 days. It has since risen.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said the government had to deal with a huge number of asylum seekers, inherited from Labor.

“Labor had almost 2,000 children in detention and the total number of people peaked at more than 10,300. We have reduced that total number in detention to just under 1,800 which includes seven children off boats and 72 children who are here temporarily and are due to return to Nauru,” he said.


Human Rights Commissioner Gillian Triggs said the Commission was concerned about the length of processing times.

“We know from consistent medical evidence that holding people in detention for prolonged periods can do serious mental harm,” she said.

“The commission is concerned about the harsh conditions of detention in the offshore processing centres and safety concerns, particularly for women and children.”

Triggs came under fire last year for claiming that children were spending too long in detention.

A drawing by an asylum seeker child in immigration detention.

During the period that the Commission was investigating, the number of children detained for more than three months was at its highest level for more than five years.

The Commission’s report on children in detention drew heavy criticism from the Federal Government last year, but the concerns were later backed up by the United Nations.

At that time there were around 800 children in detention, now there are 91.

Current asylum seeker policy is that every person who arrives in Australia without a valid visa is sent to immigration detention.

Those who arrive by boat are sent offshore to Manus and Nauru.

Refugee advocate Pamela Curr tweeted today that the wait times were unacceptable.

“Too many, too long rotting for no reason. Fazal died waiting for Minister to sign him out. Ten second signature could have saved a life,” she said.

Fazel Chegeni was an Iranian asylum seeker who died in the Christmas Island detention centre late last year.