Call for More Protection for Children in Detention
18 June 2014 at 1:04 pm
UNICEF Australia has called for an independent body to monitor and publicly report on the situation and treatment of children in Australian immigration detention.
The call has come during Refugee Week and ahead of World Refugee Day, on Friday and as a High Court ruling has found Australia's declaration of Papua New Guinea as a regional processing country is constitutional.
It is being made by the child rights organisation which says it is seeking better protection of children in detention following allegations of inadequate health care, lack of access to education and fundamental issues of child protection raised in recent weeks.
“We frequently hear of allegations of mistreatment, abuse and a failure to provide adequate services where there are very vulnerable children,” UNICEF Australia Chief Executive Officer Norman Gillespie said.
“A substantial amount of tax dollars are spent on offshore detention. We need monitoring to create transparency around that expenditure and to be assured detention is not causing children life-long harm to children.”
Dr Gillespie said an independent body could be transparent and systematic in its monitoring and provide regular public reports to the Australian community.
“UNICEF Australia’s experience show that regular and in-depth monitoring can help prevent human rights violations, such as family members being separated or children having no access to education,” he said.
“Monitoring could also prevent instances of self-harm, suicide and unrest in immigration detention sites, all of which have a profoundly negative impact on children.”
A letter sent to Immigration Minister Scott Morrison by Dr Gillespie this week said an independent body should monitor children’s access to core services, basic living conditions, their mental and physical health,and mitigate abuse, violence and exploitation.
The letter also said the body responsible for monitoring the care and well-being of children and families in detention should have an ongoing presence with regular access.
Dr Gillespie emphasised UNICEF Australia maintained a position that children should only be detained as a last resort and that without adequate independent monitoring, there could be no public accountability in relation to children in immigration detention.
The High Court made the ruling about PNG detention after a challenge by lawyers for an Iranian man who arrived at Christmas Island last July and was transferred to the Manus Island detention centre.