A record number of children are being held in closed immigration detention – despite the government’s pledge most would be out by last June.
Almost 2000 asylum-seeker children are being held on Manus Island, Christmas Island and elsewhere in forms of detention that restrict their movements.
Advocacy groups and politicians say the children are being held in contravention of their human rights, and often in harsh, remote environments.
Despite the federal government policy that ”children not be held in immigration detention centres”, the numbers now are even greater than when former immigration minister Chris Bowen said the aim was for the ”majority” of children to be out of detention by June 2011.
Refugee Council of Australia president Phil Glendenning said the numbers were a record and represented ”a fundamental failure of policy”.
”This needs to be urgently addressed and the issue needs to stop being used as a political football,” he said. ”Both sides of politics have let the Australian people down and let children down.”
Sam McLean, national director of GetUp!, which is running a campaign to release the children, said: ”Australians need to speak up about this issue. If you are not fighting the treatment of these children, you are condoning that treatment.”
Immigration Minister Brendan O’Connor said: ”People are initially detained so they can be processed for security, identity and health reasons. Once this is done they are released into the community as soon as possible, with children a priority. The government’s aim has been to accommodate the majority of children in community detention,” he said on Saturday.
”There are no children on Cocos Island and only in purpose-built family accommodation in the other places mentioned,” he said.
Statistics released by the Department of Immigration show 3235 children were having protection claims processed as at June 10, and of those 1383 were in community detention. The remainder – 1852 – were in closed-detention facilities, including ”alternative places of detention, immigration residential housing or immigration transit accommodation”.
The Immigration Detention Statistics summary report for April 30 this year shows there were 566 children on Christmas Island, but the department has refused to say how many are on Manus island.
Children are also being kept in the reopened Curtin detention centre in the Kimberley region of Western Australia – once described as Australia’s most primitive detention centre.
They are also at Leonora in WA, and Wickham Point near Darwin – a location so riddled with insect problems the Japanese gas company Inpex refused to build a workers’ village there.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.