End detention of children once and for all

In response to the Australian Human Rights Commission’s National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention which was released yesterday, the Edmund Rice Centre joined with 201 other Australian organisations and community groups to sign a joint statement calling all members of the Australian Parliament to take action to end the detention of children.

"Coordinated by the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA), the statement is a timely and necessary response to the report, and urges the Australian Parliament to introduce legislation to prevent children from being detained for immigration purposes in the future," ERC Director and President of the Refugee Council of Australia, Phil Glendenning said.

"Today, we are calling for the release of children and families detained in Australian and Nauru, and for allegations of child sexual abuse in Australian-funded detention centres to be referred to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse."

"The Australian Human Rights Commission report The Forgotten Children is a well-researched, detailed and deeply disturbing account of the harm inflicted on vulnerable children as a direct result of decisions taken by successive governments. Human Rights Commissioner Gillian Triggs and her team should be congratulated for their work in once again bringing the nation's attention to the horrors inflicted on vulnerable children," Mr Glendenning said.  

Mr Glendenning strongly rejected the Prime Minister’s assertion that the report was partisan: "The Report is correctly very critical of a policy supported by both sides of politics. It is disingenuous to call the report partisan when both sides have had virtually the same policy and both are responsible for the long-term incarceration and damage to vulnerable children," Mr Glendenning said. 

"All those responsible for detaining children knew clearly the impact these actions would have. The consequences for children’s mental and physical health have been well documented over the past decade including in the Commission’s 2004 report, a further number of Commission reports through the period the ALP was in Government, and in numerous other research reports and Parliamentary inquiries." 

"Both of Australia’s major political parties are responsible for deliberately putting in place policies and practices that harm children. The Rudd and Gillard Governments set new records for the numbers of children detained, while the Abbott Government has seen the average length of detention blow out from three months to more than 14 months in its relatively short time in office."

"The Abbott Government’s commitment to releasing children and their families from detention in Australia in recent times is very welcome. However, there are still more than 330 children in detention with more than 100 of them in Nauru. Today, in the words of the Commission, these children are 'suffering from extreme levels of physical, emotional, psychological and developmental distress'. The Australian Government has no plans to expedite their release. This is unacceptable. This is wrong. It must stop," Mr Glendenning affirmed. 

"Every individual member of Parliament has a duty to act. Cruelty to children can never again be seen as an option. The country has had enough."

Over the past ten years the Edmund Rice Centre has conducted research into what happens to Australia's rejected asylum seekers. Two major reports have been so far published Deported to Danger and Deported to Danger II – leading to the making of the television documentary, A Well Founded Fear, which screened nationally in 2008.

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