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Not for Profit Leaders Warn on Children In Detention Findings

12 February 2015 at 10:34 am
Xavier Smerdon
Deep concern has been expressed by Not for Profit sector leaders over the findings of the Australian Human Rights Commission’s report into children in immigration detention, released by the Federal Government.

Xavier Smerdon | 12 February 2015 at 10:34 am


Not for Profit Leaders Warn on Children In Detention Findings
12 February 2015 at 10:34 am

Deep concern has been expressed by Not for Profit sector leaders over the findings of the Australian Human Rights Commission’s report into children in immigration detention, released by the Federal Government.

The Australian Coalition to End Immigration Detention, a Not for Profit group which comprises a number of faith, secular and non-government organisations, said that the findings of the inquiry were extremely disturbing.

The report, The Forgotten Children, has called for all children in Nauru and mainland detention to be released after examining hundreds of cases of abuse. It also called for a Royal Commission to determine the impact of detention on children.

The report interviewed 1129 children over a 15-month period from January 2013 to March 2014. It showed there were 233 recorded assaults involving children and 33 incidents of reported sexual assault.

The AHRC’s report said Australia currently holds about 800 children in mandatory closed immigration detention for indefinite periods, with no pathway to protection or settlement.

It said that this figure included 186 children detained on Nauru and that children and their families have been held on the mainland and on Christmas Island for, on average, one year and two months while more than 167 babies have been born in detention within the last 24 months.

“We are very concerned about the findings of this report – particularly the insurmountable psychological damage that is being done to these children,” spokesperson for the Australian Coalition to End Immigration Detention of Children, Oliver White, said.

“This is an evidence-based, rigorous and reliable report that not only highlights the terrible conditions of immigration detention of children but the impact of these conditions on children in the long-term.

“The key human rights concern here is the prolonged damage that immigration detention does – and is doing – to these children, especially on Nauru where 119 children remain with an uncertain future.

“The report makes clear that Australian law and policy breaches the important human rights principle that children are only detained as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time.

“We strongly believe that immigration detention is never under any circumstance in the best interests of the child.”

The organisation said the report supports and adds to the large body of evidence that children are being psychologically damaged in detention, showing that little has changed since the AHRC’s last report on children in detention was released 10 years ago – the mandatory detention of children remains entrenched in Australian law and policy.

“The report shows the effects of detention cause despair, anxiety and depression in children. And the effects last long after children are released into the community,” White said.

The Coalition to End Immigration Detention is calling on the Federal Government to immediately release all children from detention both in Australia and on Nauru.

A joint statement by Amnesty International Australia, Caritas Australia, Children's Rights International, Human Rights Law Centre, Human Rights Council of Australia, Plan International Australia, Refugee Council of Australia, Save the Children, UNICEF Australia and World Vision Australia has also called for a bi-partisan commitment to permanently end the policy of mandatory and indefinite detention of asylum seeker children.

Save the Children’s Director of Policy & Public Affairs, Mat Tinkler, said: "As the child protection agency that supports children on Nauru we know from first-hand experience that prolonged, mandatory detention causes serious harm to children.”

“While considerable efforts are made to minimise that harm, the only way to guarantee the rights and well-being of asylum seeker children on Nauru is for the Australian Government to immediately end the practice of mandatory detention.”

“The findings of the Australian Human Rights Commission report confirm what is already known globally: detention is a dangerous place for children and can cause life-long harm.  You can’t keep children safe in detention,” UNICEF Australia’s Chief Technical Adviser, Amy Lamoin, said.

Human Rights Law Centre’s Director of Legal Advocacy, Daniel Webb, said: “Australia’s mandatory and indefinite detention of children is one of the most punitive policy approaches in the world. It’s harmful. It’s a breach of international law. It must end.”

The Sector leaders said they recognise that Minister Dutton’s recent steps to rapidly move children from immigration detention into the community on mainland Australia is a distinctly positive step.

“We consider the rapid movement of children out of detention as acknowledgement, by the Minister, of the serious harm that the Government’s policy has caused,” Child Rights International Chair, Alastair Nicholson said.

But Plan International Australia Deputy CEO, Susanne Legena, said, “We remain seriously concerned about the children who are still in detention and those who will be affected by this policy in the future, if it were to continue. We again call for a new approach based on shared regional responsibility so that we can avoid repeating the same mistakes at an enormous cost to children.”

The report was delivered to the Federal Government in November and was only tabled in Parliament late last night.

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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