More Child Asylum Seekers Locked Up Than Adults - NFP Report
10 July 2014 at 11:31 am
Child asylum seekers are more likely than their adult counterparts to be held in a locked detention facility than in community alternatives, an analysis of immigration detention statistics by the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) has shown.
RCOA chief executive officer Paul Power said an analysis of the Federal Government’s immigration detention statistics as at May 31, 2014 showed that 23 per cent of the 4331 children in Australia’s immigration detention system were locked up in facilities in Australia or Nauru, while the proportion of adults in locked facilities was 18 per cent.
“Of the 33,852 asylum seekers and others in Australia’s immigration detention system, 2395 were detained in offshore facilities in PNG or Nauru and 4016 in Australian detention facilities. The remaining 81 per cent were in community detention (2955) or living in the community on Bridging Visas (24,486),” Power said.
“Of the 4331 children in the immigration detention system, 208 were detained in Nauru and 775 in Australian detention facilities with the remaining 77 per cent in community detention (1507) or in the community on Bridging Visas (1841).
“In the eight months since 30 September 2013, the Abbott Government has increased the number of people held in offshore detention facilities by 800, with more than a quarter of those transferred being children. However, within Australia, the Government has slowly been moving people out of detention and on to Bridging Visas, with the number of asylum seekers who arrived by boat moved on to on Bridging Visas increasing by 1499.”
Power said RCOA conducted its analysis of Australian detention statistics in response to the release of the new “Beyond Detention” strategy by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in which it has signalled its intention to work with governments on alternatives to detention.
Initially, UNHCR plans to work on detention alternatives in Hungary, Indonesia, Lithuania, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Thailand, UK and Zambia.
“The irony for Australia is that successive governments have broken new ground in finding alternatives to detention and that these policies have been examined by other governments looking to reduce the numbers of people being detained,” Power said.
“Community detention arrangements were developed by the Howard Government in 2005 and 2006 in response to opposition within government ranks to the detention of children. In 2008, the Rudd Government declared that detention should be used only as a last resort and for the shortest practicable time.
“While most asylum seekers going through status resolution are living in the community in Australia rather than in detention, we still continue to see thousands of people, both adults and children, locked up for many months for no apparent reason. This defies common sense as the government’s own figures show that detention is outrageously costly.
“In May, the National Commission of Audit published a graph of figures from the Department of Finance which showed that offshore detention cost more than $400,000 per person per year and detention in Australia cost $239,000 per person per year. Community detention cost less than $100,000 and community release on Bridging Visas less than $35,000.
“While the number of people detained in Australian detention facilities fell by 37 per cent in eight months, the average time people were detained has nearly tripled, from 115 days to 324 days. Now, 83 per cent of all people in Australian detention facilities have been there for six months or more.
“The use of mandatory detention as a deterrent to people arriving by boat to seek asylum is one of the most unsuccessful of all Australian Government policies – and yet politicians and bureaucrats hold on to this policy despite a 20-fold increase in boat arrivals since its introduction.
“Mandatory detention was introduced by the Keating Labor Government in 1992. In the 17 years prior to the introduction of mandatory detention, 2529 asylum seekers arrived by boat at an average of 149 per year. In the 22 years since, 66,916 asylum seekers have arrived, an average of 3042 per year.”
Trends in detention statistics under the Abbott Government
In the eight months from September 30, 2013 to May 31, 2014:
- The number of people in Australian detention facilities has decreased by 2387, from 6403 to 4016 (decrease of 37.3 per cent). Most of the change has been in people who have arrived by boat, declining by 2378, from 5843 to 3465 (decrease of 40.7 per cent);
- The number of boat arrivals in community detention has declined by 286, from 3241 to 2955 (decrease of 8.8 per cent);
- The number of boat arrivals released into the community on Bridging Visas has increased by 1499, from 22,987 to 24,486 (increase of 6.5 per cent);
- The number of boat arrivals in detention in Australia’s offshore detention facilities in Papua New Guinea and Nauru has increased by 800, from 1595 to 2395 (increase of 50.2 per cent);
- Overall, the number of boat arrivals in detention or in community-based alternatives to detention has decreased by 365, from 33,666 to 33,301 (decrease of 1.1 per cent).
The RCOA report says that while the number of people in Australian detention facilities has decreased by 37.3 per cent, the average time in detention has nearly tripled, from 115 days on September 30, 2013 to 324 days on May 31, 2014.
The number of people in detention for less than six months has reduced from 5782 to 697 (88 per cent decrease) but the number of people in detention for more than six months has increased from 621 to 3319 (434 per cent increase).
Since October 31, 2013 (September figures have not been released), the number of children in offshore detention centres has increased by 100 to 208. The number of children in Australian detention facilities has decreased by 270 to 775 and in community detention has decreased by 263 to 1507. As at May 31, 2014, 1841 asylum seeker children were living in the community on Bridging Visas, an increase of 30 since October.
Since October 31, 2013, the number of women in offshore detention centres has increased by 146 to 304. The number of women in Australian detention facilities has decreased by 353 to 669 and in community detention has decreased by 25 to 641. As at May 31, 2014, 2331 asylum seeker women were living in the community on Bridging Visas, an increase of 190 since October.