Detention is a noun meaning the keeping under guard or confinement.
Australia's Migration Act 1958 requires that all non-Australians who are unlawfully in Australia must be detained and that unless they are granted permission to remain in Australia, they must be removed as soon as practical. This is referred to as mandatory detention.
In Australia, people become unlawful non-citizens because they have tried to enter the country without a visa or travel authority or, having entered legally with a visa, have stayed in Australia past the expiry date of that visa, or they have breached the conditions of the visa.
This term is hot because Australia is the only Western country that mandatorily detains asylum seekers whilst their claims are being heard. Sweden, for example, receives a similar numbers of asylum seekers as Australia, despite having less than half the population. Detention in Sweden is only used to establish a personís identity and to conduct criminal screening. Most detainees are released within a very short time, particularly if they have relatives or friends living in Sweden.
In Australia men, women and children asylum seekers are kept in detention centres for months and often for years while their claims are assessed. Community based alternatives to mandatory detention can be found internationally and within the current Australian parole system. These options would enable asylum seekers' claims to be assessed for legitimacy. They are also significantly less expensive and more humane.
10 March 2002