Aust Breaches Children's Rights...  

One Man's Web > Politics and Ethics > Australia and the refugees > Australia Breaches Children's Human Rights
Posted 6/6/2004

The headline above seems obvious to everyone but the Australian government and its supporters.  Below is the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission's report media pack introduction.  To access the full report go to their website at A Last Resort

13 May 2004


A Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Inquiry has found that children in Australian immigration detention centres have suffered numerous and repeated breaches of their human rights.

In its National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention Report- A Last Resort?, tabled in Federal Parliament today, the Commission found Australia’s immigration detention policy has failed to protect the mental health of children, failed to provide adequate health care and education and failed to protect unaccompanied children and those with disabilities.

The two-year, comprehensive Inquiry also found that the mandatory detention system breached the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. It failed, as required by the Convention, to make detention a measure of “last resort”, for the “shortest appropriate period of time” and subject to independent review.

The system failed to make the “best interests of the child” a primary consideration in detaining them and it failed to treat them with humanity and respect.

Furthermore, the Government’s failure to implement repeated recommendations by mental health professionals to remove children with their parents from detention amounted to “cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment”.

The Report is the result of two years of careful consideration of evidence and submissions. The Inquiry visited all detention centres in Australia and took evidence from a vast range of individuals and organisations - detainee children and parents, human rights advocacy groups, medical and legal experts, State governments, Australasian Correctional Management (ACM) and the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA) amongst others.

DIMIA and ACM were offered several opportunities to make oral and written submissions to the Inquiry. The Inquiry treated DIMIA and ACM’s responses, along with all other evidence, very seriously in reaching its final conclusions.

Human Rights Commissioner Dr Sev Ozdowski said it was time to release all children with their families from detention centres and residential housing projects and for steps to be taken by federal Parliament to ensure that no child who arrives in Australia ever suffers under this system again.

“With every right there is a responsibility. The Government has a right to develop its migration policy, but it has a responsibility to uphold the conventions it has signed,” said Dr Ozdowski. “Remember these are children with human rights. They are not numbers, or acronyms.”

“There have been more than 2000 children in immigration detention over the past few years. We can act to ensure we do not repeat the mistakes we made in their care and treatment. We have the opportunity to change the system to ensure these breaches do not happen again.”

“Last Christmas, there were more than 100 children in detention centres and housing projects in Australia and there are still a significant number of children in detention now,” Dr Ozdowski said. “This is not ancient history. We are still abusing the rights of children in detention today. Children are still behind barbed wire now.”

The Commissioner called on the Government to release all remaining children within four weeks, for federal Parliament to change the law to ensure that detention is no longer the first and only resort for asylum seeker children and to ensure that decisions about the detention of children be made by an independent court.

“For a country that is a passionate advocate of human rights internationally and is currently the Chair of the Human Rights Commission at the United Nations, this is a great opportunity to be a leader,” Dr Ozdowski said.

“All Australians should look at these findings, read the examples and think of their children, their grandchildren or the children of their friends and ask themselves – how would I feel if my children were raised behind barbed wire and their human rights were abused?” asked Dr Ozdowski.

“Almost 93 per cent of these families have been accepted as ‘genuine refugees’ so why do we lock them up for years behind barbed wire?” asked Dr Ozdowski.

“The treatment of some of these children has left them severely traumatised and with long-term mental health problems. Children with emotional and physical scars will be a legacy of our mandatory detention policy,” the Commissioner said.

(HREOC Media Release)

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