Counting and Accounting for Deaths in Australian Immigration Custody

Rebecca Powell, Leanne Weber, Sharon Pickering

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Since 2000, more than 1,500 people have died trying to reach Australia by boat or in other ways that are connected with the enforcement of border controls. This article is concerned with a subset of those deaths that can be classified as deaths in immigration custody. In the Australian context, official deaths in custody reporting has only included deaths in the custodial settings of prison, juvenile detention, and police custody, and during the apprehension of criminal suspects or escapees by police or prison authorities. Deaths that occur in immigration detention centers or while authorities attempt to take suspected "unlawful non-citizens" into Migration Act custody are not considered to be deaths in custody for the purposes of investigation and national monitoring. At least 29 such deaths have occurred in Australia since 2000. As with deaths in criminal justice settings, all of these deaths raise questions concerning duty of care, prevention of future deaths, and the use of homicide-related categories in establishing state culpability. This article examines the prospects for achieving a level of accountability for non-citizens who die in immigration custody that mirrors the procedures, however flawed, that apply within criminal justice settings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)391-417
Number of pages27
JournalHomicide Studies
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2013
Externally publishedYes


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