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International transfer of prisoners

We administer the International Transfer of Prisoners (ITP) Scheme. This scheme allows prisoners serving a sentence of imprisonment in a foreign country to apply to transfer to their home country to serve the remainder of their sentence.

The scheme aims to promote the successful rehabilitation and reintegration into society of the prisoner, while preserving the sentence imposed by the sentencing country as far as possible. The scheme contributes to community safety by ensuring that prisoners' convictions are recorded in their home country and that their reintegration into that country's community is able to be appropriately supported, monitored and supervised.

The International Transfer of Prisoners Act 1997 (ITP Act) provides the legal framework of the International Transfer of Prisoners Scheme.

Transfers under the scheme are not intended to provide a more lenient or convenient alternative for prisoners. Transfers are not automatic and require the consent of the Australian Government, the government of the foreign country and the prisoner before the transfer can take place.

Transfers of prisoners from Australia who have been convicted of a state or territory offence, and all transfers of prisoners to Australia, also require the consent of the relevant state or territory government.

Benefits of the ITP Scheme

The scheme aims to:

  • improve prisoners' prospects for rehabilitation by removing language and cultural barriers, allowing access to custodial programs and facilitating contact with family and social support networks
  • promote reintegration into society by allowing prisoners to be released on supervised parole (in the absence of transfer, foreign nationals are usually removed under migration laws immediately upon release from prison, without receiving the benefit of any parole supervision or programs to assist with reintegration into the community)
  • protect the community through the effective management and monitoring of prisoners transferred back to Australia
  • allow prisoners' convictions to be recorded by the relevant authorities in their home country
  • meet public expectations that the Australian Government will enable Australians imprisoned overseas to apply to return home to serve out their sentences
  • meet the expectations of foreign governments that their citizens will be able to apply to transfer home to serve out their sentence
  • reduce the costs of providing consular services to Australians serving sentences of imprisonment overseas, and reduce the cost to Australian state and territory governments of housing foreign prisoners.

Transfer countries and treaties

Australia is able to undertake transfers with over sixty countries through the Council of Europe Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons and a number of bilateral treaties.

More information about the convention is available on the Council of Europe website.

Transfers to or from Australia

A prisoner may be transferred between Australia and a transfer country under the International Transfer of Prisoners Act 1997 if:

  • the prisoner is eligible
  • the conditions of transfer are satisfied
  • the transfer of the prisoner is not likely to prevent his or her surrender to an extradition country
  • the Australian Government, the foreign government, the prisoner and, where relevant, the government of an Australian state or territory, all agree to the transfer.

A prisoner is eligible for transfer to Australia if they are an Australian citizen, or are permitted to travel to, enter and remain in Australia indefinitely pursuant to the Migration Act 1958 and have community ties with a state or territory.

A prisoner is eligible for transfer from Australia if they are a national of the country to which they want to transfer. Some countries also allow prisoners who are not nationals, but who have community ties with the country, to transfer.

The conditions of transfer to or from Australia that must be satisfied are that:

  • there are at least six months of the prisoner's sentence remaining to be served; or one year for transfers to or from some countries with whom Australia has a bilateral arrangement (this requirement may be waived in some circumstances)
  • neither the sentence of imprisonment nor the conviction on which it is based is subject to appeal, and
  • the conduct constituting the offence for which the prisoner is serving a sentence would also constitute an offence in the country to which the prisoner wishes to transfer (this requirement may be waived in some circumstances).

Foreign countries may have additional conditions for transfer.  For example, some countries may exclude prisoners who have committed particular types of offences, or require prisoners to serve a specified minimum period of their sentence before they can apply for transfer.

In additions to the conditions of transfer, the Australian Minister for Justice takes a number of other factors into account when determining whether or not to consent to the transfer of a prisoner to or from Australia.

These considerations include the extent to which the transfer would assist the prisoner's rehabilitation, sentence enforcement, community safety and any relevant humanitarian considerations.

For more information visit the Transfers from Australia and the Transfers to Australia pages.

International Transfer of Prisoners Statement of Policy

The International Transfer of Prisoners Statement of Policy contains the policies that guide the Australian Minister's assessment of transfer applications.

Once a prisoner transfers to Australia they become a federal prisoner and their conditions of imprisonment and eligibility for parole are governed by directions made under the International Transfer of Prisoners Act 1997 and/or provisions of the Crimes Act 1914, prior to transfer.