UNICEF Australia has welcomed the Australian Human Rights Commission’s inquiry into children in immigration detention.
UNICEF Australia holds serious concerns for the wellbeing of children in prolonged detention and considers this one of the most urgent child rights issues in Australia today. We support the inquiry’s review of the health, education, development and emotional needs of children in immigration detention and its consideration of how immigration processes impact on children.
(South Australia) (13:14): I rise today to speak on behalf of the many Australians in this country who are very concerned by the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers under the watch of our government, our parliament and, indeed, our political leaders at large. For far too long the situation of refugees and asylum seekers has been used as a political issue. It has been used to win elections. It has been used to increase poll numbers. It has become a toxic political debate, where the only winners are fear and hate, and the losers are the moral character of our nation and, tragically, the fate of the refugees, who are people, just like Australians, who are desperate for peace and safety for their families. The treatment of refugees in Australia is not simply a political issue and it should not remain just an issue of political debate. It is a moral issue. It is about how we treat some of the most vulnerable people. Our response as a nation defines our national character. This issue reveals how we want to view ourselves as a nation within the rest of the world.
Many Australians are becoming more and more concerned about the harsh and brutal treatment of refugees. We have seen that very recently as a result of the horrific scenes at the Manus Island detention camp, where one man was tragically killed and many others injured. But we are also seeing it through the eyes of people who work in immigration detention facilities, who see the desperate reality of those who have come to Australia seeking help. We see the response from the Australian people to the issues of children who are detained indefinitely—hundreds and hundreds of them throughout Australia, Christmas Island and Nauru. Increasingly, more and more Australians are questioning the harsh and brutal policies that Australia has in place. They are asking, 'Have we gone too far? At what cost are these harsh policies?'
I want to read a little bit of an email that I received last night. It is from a refugee who is detained in one of our detention centres. His email is a plea for help. He is asking very sincerely for us to hear his cry for help because he has lost all hope. It reads: 'I came to Australia by boat as a refugee. It has now been one year and six months and I've spent all this time in detention in Australia. I was married in Afghanistan but after a year and eight months I had to run away to seek asylum from the Taliban. When I arrived in Darwin I heard that my wife back home was pregnant. I was in detention. My wife's family did not think it would be appropriate to support a family. They therefore decided to abort the pregnancy. For six months I had been looking forward to being a father, only to be told by my wife's mother that the pregnancy had been aborted three months ago. After that I felt so terrible. I thought that my infant's death was due to my inability to be a good father, that it was my fault. I fell into deep depression. I cut myself to punish myself for not meeting my responsibilities as a father. I tried to kill myself, eating 100 tablets. I did this because I could not forgive myself for my infant's death. This suicide attempt was unsuccessful. I was admitted to hospital. I was in the Perth Hospital for one month and in Toowong hospital for three. I am now back in detention. One hope for me was that at least my family back home would be safe from the Taliban. But three days ago my case manager told me that my private information, such as my name, date of birth and prior address in Afghanistan, was released onto the internet to the public. So now my mother is not safe. When the Taliban find this information they will know where I used to live and they will kill my mother as punishment. I am very afraid for my mother. I am really tired of the detention centre, and I do not know what to do. Every day I die 100 times in my head. This is the situation I find myself in. For one year Immigration told me the delay was due to a security check. I am not an animal. I am a human. I came here to seek asylum, to have a life, not to be put in jail. With so much hope I brought myself to Australia, but already I have lost everything. I have lost my child, my wife, my family and my mental health.' That is just one story I received as recently as last night.
Many Australians are wondering, 'Can't we be a better country? Can't we find a kinder way? Can't we have a policy that we as a nation can be proud of?' If somebody comes to our country begging for our help, we have a responsibility to do what we can to protect them and not hinder their journey for protection. Some of these Australians in the last week have started to put their views online and join in campaigns right across the country. I want to read some of the things that people have said. One said:
Compassion is not a sign of weakness. It takes courage to stand up for what is right and it takes courage to search for a policy that will save lives and give safety to vulnerable people. When someone begs for your help, only a coward would turn their back. We are a better country than this.
Children in detention entitled to protection Daily News An inspection report for children in detention by the Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance in June 2011 found that of the 441 children detained in adult prisons, 407 were boys and...
The Uniting Church has slammed the "cold blooded" treatment of asylum seeker children in detention, offering housing for children who are being forcibly moved from Christmas Island to Australia's second processing centre on Nauru Island.
United Nations to throw spotlight on Nauru detention centres Islands Business The UN group examined Australia in 2002 and raised concern about the "automatic and indiscriminate character" of mandatory detention of asylum seekers, the psychological...
Sky News Australia Australia's asylum-seeker policy may breach international law: UNHCR GlobalPost The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says Australia's plan to send asylum seekers arriving by boat to neighbouring Papua New Guinea for...
The Australian Human Rights Commission’s (then known as the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission) National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention was announced on 28 November 2001. The Inquiry was conducted throughout 2002.
The President of the Human Rights Commission says she'll personally visit immigration detention centres as part of a national inquiry into children in immigration detention. The purpose of the inquiry is to investigate the ways in which life in immigration detention affects the health, well-being and development of children. Professor Gillian Triggs will assess whether laws, policies and practices relating to children in immigration detention meet Australia's international human rights obligations.
Australia's Human Rights Commission has launched a national inquiry into children in detention, following concerns about the health and wellbeing of ''unprecedented'' numbers of children ''living behind the wire''.
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