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Children in Detention Worries Aussie Kids

20 November 2014 at 11:06 am
Xavier Smerdon
One in four Australian children have said that children’s rights to protection in their country are not being met, according to a new global survey of over 6,000 children.

Xavier Smerdon | 20 November 2014 at 11:06 am


Children in Detention Worries Aussie Kids
20 November 2014 at 11:06 am

One in four Australian children have said that children’s rights to protection in their country are not being met, according to a new global survey of over 6,000 children.

The Small Voices, Big Dreams Survey, the results of which were released today to coincide with Universal Children’s Day, was undertaken by international aid group, ChildFund Alliance.

It also comes as the Australian Government announced it would not settle refugees who sought protection in Indonesia after June 2014.

CEO of ChildFund Australia, Nigel Spence, said the survey found that young Australians were concerned about the fate of other children around the world.

“Comments made by Australian children in this year’s survey highlight their compassion for others and their awareness of significant issues affecting their community,” Spence said.

“The responses of many of the Australian children referred to unfair treatment of other children, including children in detention, Aboriginal children and homeless children.”

This year, to mark the 25th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 6,040 children aged 10 to 12 years in 44 countries, including 202 children in Australia, were asked for their views on child rights as part of the survey.

The poll found some marked differences in responses between children in developed countries such as Australia and their peers in developing countries. For example, Australian children were far more likely to say that children in our country aren’t missing out on any rights (27 per cent), compared with four per cent in Africa and 12 per cent in Asia.

Spence said an alarming one in four children (24 per cent) in developing countries said children in their country are rarely or never protected from being hurt or mistreated, compared with six per cent in Australia. In the Asia region, 40 per cent of children surveyed in Laos and a quarter (26 per cent) of children in India and Indonesia said young people in their country were rarely or never protected from abuse.

The survey also revealed the gap between Australian children and children in developing countries when it comes to being protected from doing harmful work. Over two-thirds of children in Australia (69 per cent) said that young people here are protected from doing harmful work always or often, in comparison to only 30 per cent from developing countries.

“As we mark 25 years of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, it is sadly evident that we are failing to protect too many children in our region and beyond. While children in Australia recognise that they generally enjoy greater rights than their peers in developing countries, we cannot ignore how much more needs to be done to ensure vulnerable children here and around the world are afforded better protections and opportunities so that all children can be free from violence, abuse and exploitation,” Spence said.

The survey comes as the Australian Coalition to End Immigration Detention of Children called on the Federal Government to immediately release all children from detention.

The Coalition, which comprises a number of Australian human rights and refugee organisations, said there are currently just under 800 children in detention in Australia and offshore whose rights are being violated.

Coalition to End Immigration Detention of Children and ChilOut Campaign Coordinator, Claire Hammerton, said it was essential the Government alter its current practice and immediately release all children from detention in Australia and offshore.

“Australia is a party to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which clearly states that children should not be unlawfully or arbitrarily detained. The UN Committee which oversees the Convention has recommended that children live in non-custodial, community based alternatives to detention while their immigration status is being determined,” Hammerton said.

“But Australia’s current practice is to detain the innocent in detention in secure facilities for an indefinite time period and in remote, even offshore locations.

“We strongly believe that immigration detention is never under any circumstance in the best interests of the child. There is evidence that concludes children are being psychologically damaged in detention.

“The effects of detention are well documented – it causes despair, anxiety and depression in children. And the effects last long after children are released into the community.”

But it appears that the requests will likely fall on deaf ears, with Immigration Minister Scott Morrison announcing strict changes to the Government’s refugee intake policy this week.

Morrison said the Government will no longer resettle asylum seekers found to be refugees by the United Nation's refugee agency in Indonesia who registered after July 1.

"These changes should reduce the movement of asylum seekers to Indonesia and encourage them to seek resettlement in or from countries of first asylum," Morrison said.

"While nine of 10 months of 2014 have passed without a successful people smuggling venture to Australia, we know smugglers continue to encourage asylum seekers to travel illegally to Indonesia for the purpose of seeking resettlement in Australia."

Refugee Council of Australia CEO Paul Power said the announcement would send a clear signal to our neighbours in Asia that Australian Government was more interested in pursuing small-minded political objectives than in supporting its much poorer neighbours to better protect refugees.

“The Australian Government has admitted that, over the past year, it has turned back 12 boats to Indonesia without the knowledge or permission of the Indonesian Government. It is outrageous for Australia to add insult to injury by refusing to resettle people whose need for protection has been clearly established,” Power said.

“If people have been found by UNHCR to be in need of protection from IS, the Taliban and other extremist groups, how can we refuse to help our closest neighbour by offering these refugees the long-term safety and security that Indonesia is in no position to provide?

“The sad reality is that there is no orderly international system through which refugees can seek protection and resettlement. Instead, refugees are engaged in a desperate scramble to find viable protection wherever they can while wealthy countries like Australia are largely turning away.

“We have sunk so low in our treatment of refugees that Australians are entitled to question whether their Government is on the side of the persecuted or on the side of the persecutors.”

The full ChildFund survey can be downloaded here.

Xavier Smerdon  |  Journalist  |  @XavierSmerdon

Xavier Smerdon is a journalist specialising in the Not for Profit sector. He writes breaking and investigative news articles.

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