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The A Just Australia campaign is managed by the Refugee Council of Australia. The core mission of the campaign is to campaign for positive changes to government policy on refugee and asylum seekers. By working together with prominent Australians and community groups and thousands of concerned individuals, A Just Australia aims to achieve just and compassionate treatment of refugees, consistent with the human rights standards which Australia has developed and endorsed.

7 February 2014

Detaining children is not the Australian way

The Australian Human Rights Commission’s inquiry into the mandatory and closed detention of children seeking asylum in Australia is well-overdue.

At the end of 2013, there were 1,028 children in closed detention facilities with another 116 children detained on Nauru.

In the past three months, the average time spent by asylum seekers, including children, in detention has grown from 105 days to 201 days.

We know that mandatory detention damages the mental health of children.

Children living in detention are isolated, bored and denied any opportunity to visit the beach, the playground or library. Some have limited access to education.

We also know the Australian Government has proven and successful alternatives to detention at its disposal.

In 2006, the Howard Government moved children out of immigration detention centres and into community arrangements – a policy continued by Labor in Government in 2010.

But in recent years, the number of children in detention has continued, reaching a peak of 1,992 in July 2013.

The Commission’s inquiry is an important opportunity to raise public awareness about this practice and to lobby Members of Parliament for immediate change.

How you can help

Contact Members of Parliament to voice your objection to the Government’s policy to deny any chance of permanent refugee protection to asylum seekers

  • A detention centre is no place for a child, let alone a child damaged by war and persecution
  • By detaining children, Australia fails to meet the undertakings it agreed to as a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child
  • The Government has the power to ensure that children have timely access to community alternatives to detention.
  • Basic decency and fairness demands the Government use community alternatives to mandatory, closed detention.

The Australian Human Rights Commission is keen to hear from as many people as possible. People who have had direct experience with children who were previously detained (such as neighbours, friends, teachers or work colleagues) are encouraged to contact the Inquiry to ensure their rights are addressed. Find out how your voice can be heard at https://www.humanrights.gov.au/our-work/asylum-seekers-and-refugees/national-inquiry-children-immigration-detention-2014

Essential reading

Australian Human Rights Commission media release
https://www.humanrights.gov.au/news/stories/inquiry-announced-time-reassess-children-held-immigration-detention

Refugee Council of Australia media release
http://refugeecouncil.org.au/n/mr/140203_ChildDetention.pdf

Research and experiences of children in detention in Australia
http://www.chilout.org/

International research about alternatives to detention
http://idcoalition.org/children/

Article 37(b) of the convention on the Rights of the Child states that: “No child shall be deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily. The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time.”
http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/other/dfat/treaties/1991/4.html
 
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