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Consular enquiries in Australia

Detention or death of a foreign national in Australia

This page outlines the responsibilities of Commonwealth, State and Territory agencies in the case of detention or death or injury of a foreign national so Australia can meet its international obligations. These obligations exist under the vienna convention on consular relations (VCCR). Specific articles of the VCCR are implemented in Australian law through the Consular Privileges and Immunities Act 1972.

How to contact foreign consular officials

To locate the relevant nearest embassy/consulate, see the list on the Department of  Foreign Affairs
and Trade website.
Please direct any further questions to:

Mail:

Protocol Branch
Department of Foreign Affairs And Trade
RG Casey building Canberra  ACT 2600

Email:

protocol.branch@dfat.gov.au

Phone:

Office hours: 02 6261  1111

EMERGENCIES ONLY: 0418  167 127

Detention of a foreign national

Rights of a detained foreign national

Where a foreign national is detained, the detainee has the right to request consular services from a relevant foreign consular official. Detainees should be provided with adequate interpreting services where necessary and/or required.

For interpreting services, call Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National) on 131 450 (costs may apply).

Rights of consular officials in relation to detained foreign nationals

Under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations 1963, consular officials in Australia have rights if requested by a detained foreign national, to:

  • visit the detained foreign national who is in prison, custody or detention
  • converse or correspond with the detained foreign national
  • arrange for their legal representation

What to do if you detain a foreign national

Inform without delay, or as soon as practicable, the detained person of their rights to have the relevant embassy or consular post informed of their detention and to request consular assistance.

Tell detainee: You can ask us to inform your consulate or embassy now or at any time in the future.

Ask detainee: Do you want your consulate or embassy notified of your arrest/detention?

Record the detainee’s response regarding consular notification in writing.

If answer is “Yes”

  • Notify their embassy/consulate without delay or as soon as practicable of their detention and request for consular assistance.
  • Forward any communication addressed to the embassy/consulate by the detainee without delay or as soon as practicable.
  • Allow access for consular officials to visit, converse, correspond, and to arrange legal representation for the detainee.

If answer is “No”

  • Do not notify the embassy/consulate of the detainee’s arrest/detention.
  • Exception: In the case of Indonesia, basic, de-identified information will be provided to the embassy/consulate even if the detainee has not provided consent* (see below).

Note additional notification requirements for nationals of the following countries:

China

  • If the detainee answers “Yes”, notify embassy/consulate within 3 calendar days.
  • If the detainee is silent or answers “No”, do not inform the consulate or embassy.
  • Embassy Tel: 0418 452 387 or 02 6228 3958

Vietnam

  • If the detainee answers “Yes”, notify embassy/consulate within 3 working days.
  • If the detainee is silent or answers “No”, do not inform the consulate or embassy.
  • Embassy Tel: 02 6286 6059 or 02 6286 5660

*Indonesia

  • If the detainee answers “Yes”, notify embassy/consulate within 3 working days.
  • If the detainee is silent or answers “No”, only inform the embassy/consulate in writing that their national has been detained; no identifying personal information is to be provided.**
  • Embassy Tel: 0450 475 094 or 02 6250 8600

Death or injury of a foreign national

Notification of the death of a foreign national

The authority which is registering the death whether it be police, a coroner or other authority should inform the relevant foreign embassy or consulate of the death without delay and provide a copy of the death certificate upon request.

Injury or hospitalisation of a foreign national

Where a foreign national is seriously injured or hospitalised and is incapacitated, it may be appropriate for authorities to contact the person’s consulate or embassy if contact cannot be made with next of kin. In such circumstances, we would encourage authorities to contact the person’s consulate or embassy as soon as practical. If the appointment of a guardian or trustee is required for the foreign national, the embassy or consulate should be informed.

**Privacy and personal information

Where detainees have expressly declined consent to notify their embassy or consulate, detaining authorities need to rigorously de-identify personal information.

De-identifying personal information means ensuring that an individual cannot be reasonably identified from the information provided to an embassy or consulate and/or from the broader context in which the information is provided.

For example, if information about the detention of a particular foreign national is already in the media, the aggregate effect of that information and the notification to the consulate or embassy should be considered by the detaining authority when notifying the relevant consulate or embassy.

‘Personal Information’ is defined in the Privacy Act as:

“information or an opinion about an identified individual, or an individual who is reasonably identifiable:

  1. Whether the information or opinion is true or not; and
  2. Whether the information or opinion is recorded in a material form or not.”

DFAT protocol branch duty officer

Phone 0418 167 127 (24 hrs)

Local authorities experiencing difficulty contacting the relevant embassy/consulate of a detained or deceased foreign national should, without delay, advise the Protocol Duty Officer, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

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