Release of families with children a step in the right direction

The Edmund Rice Centre today welcomed the announcement that children and their families would soon be released from immigration detention facilities.

In welcoming the move by the Government, ERC Director Phil Glendenning said, “Detaining children and their families has been a long well-documented cause of serious emotional and mental distress, especially to children and families who have fled from situations of war and persecution.”

“The move today by Minister Chris Bowen and the Government to release children and vulnerable families is very important and is most welcome. This positive news will serve to relieve the distress and mental anguish that detention has caused to vulnerable people.“

“In making this move the Government is showing that there are a range of options for asylum seeker children and their families besides mandatory detention,” Mr Glendenning said. “Other western countries have demonstrated that such alternatives can be compassionate whilst still being no less effective.” 

“It is also a positive step that the Minister has announced that resources will be provided by the Government to community agencies and churches to deliver appropriate support programs. It is important that these services be provided by community agencies, but they must be adequately resourced by the Government. Ultimately, releasing people to the community will save the tax-payer money, but the community will always need to be appropriately resourced.”

Mr Glendenning did however express concerns about the fact that the release may take until June 2011 to complete. 

“This is too long a period for children to wait. As the Minister said today. they are a special case and we would hope that their processing might be expedited to ensure they remained in detention for as little time as possible,” Mr Glendenning said. 

“Whilst we look forward to the day when Australia joins the rest of the western world in not mandatorily detaining anyone seeking asylum, it is nevertheless important that the Government has also sought today to upgrade accommodation facilities provided to families, and to move people from an unbearable existence in tents on Christmas Island to two new facilities near Perth and Adelaide. It is good they are not in remote parts of the desert.” 

“It is to be hoped that these moves would have the full support of the Coalition as the changes are in accord with the Howard Government’s action in 2005, when children were released from immigration detention. It has been most disappointing and surprising, however, in recent times to hear some Coalition members criticising the use of motels to accommodate asylum seeker families in the community. This was a policy developed in Government by the Coalition, and it would be very welcome development in Australia if today’s move received bi-partisan support.”

“As the Minister said today, children are a special case. For too long in this country they were not. The detention of asylum seeker children and their families was a stain on the nation. It was a wrong that needed to be put right. Today we have taken that first step back onto the right track”, Mr Glendenning concluded.

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