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Issue #1619      November 20, 2013

Asylum seeker kids in detention

What’s happening where

Christmas Island: The government has announced that this will be an indefinite place of detention for those asylum seekers who arrived by boat between July 19 and September 7 and for some people who arrived after this date. This is said to include up to 400 children. For these people, no refugee determination process will take place whilst they are detained on Christmas Island.

They will be moved to Nauru or Manus Island as space becomes available and once there and found to be refugees the future also has no certainty – await a third country to offer a resettlement place (not Australia). This approach is incredibly cruel and puts further pressure on people to return to their homelands regardless of the dangers they may face there.

At present there are 2,184 people detained on Christmas Island, more than 400 are children. Families are living in converted dining quarters divided by plastic sheeting. Varied policies apply to people dependent on arbitrary dates and there is complete confusion, stress and uncertainty amongst asylum seekers held there. Education, recreation and health are all compromised in this overcrowded, inappropriate and remote setting.

Nauru: We believe there are around 80 children detained on Nauru. The government or Department do not provide a breakdown of adults/children, the only public figure is the overall one provided at the weekly Operation Sovereign Borders briefing. We know that two pregnant women have already been sent here, both are pregnant, one mother has diabetes. There is confusion as to the present location and condition of these women – we are attempting to gain reliable information; no easy feat in the current non-transparent setting.

There is a 56-bed hospital on Nauru, it was affected by fire in August and is to treat locals and asylum seekers. The Nauru detention facility was intended to be an open one, where people could come and go and interact with the local community. This has not been possible. There are no excursions outside the facility; there is no access to education outside the facility. Accommodation is in tents, there is no privacy, no air conditioning, it is dusty, the “education tent” is the same.

Manus Island: Our greatest fear for unaccompanied children has now been realised. Reports indicate that at least two unaccompanied boys are currently in detention in Papua New Guinea; one is already on 24-hour suicide watch. To the best of ChilOut’s knowledge and all publicly available material, these children have no guardian once in PNG. It appears that these two boys were transferred under the previous government. The Immigration Minister of the day is the person charged with acting in the best interests of unaccompanied asylum seeker children.

It is the position of Minister Morrison that there be no exceptions to the offshore transfer rule. We cannot foresee that sending a child away from Australia to face indefinite and remote detention could be in the best interests of that child.

Darwin: Around 14 babies have been born into Darwin’s detention facilities in past few weeks. Approximately 40 more are expected in coming months. ChilOut wants to urgently visit the three Darwin facilities holding newborn babies, expectant mothers, unaccompanied minors and family groups. There are serious concerns about suitable health care, the mental health and stress impacts on expectant and new mothers and the wellbeing of the children in these settings. ChilOut believes there are more than 350 children detained in Darwin.

Other locations: Children (both unaccompanied and in family groups) are also detained in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide.

In the community: Of course ChilOut supports people being released into the community and released from locked, arbitrary detention. However release with no right to work, no ability to support yourself or your family and very little access to any government assistance means that service providers are already being overwhelmed with requests for assistance and asylum seekers are living in destitute conditions.

ChilOut

Next article – Children with complex disabilities in the too-hard basket

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