Home: Asylum- seeker children at Lombrum Naval Base, Manus Island. Photo: Angela Wylie “We are suffering on Manus. It is a tortura for us.”: The caption on a 10 year old Iranian girl’s picture.
The number of asylum-seeker children held in closed immigration detention is at an all-time high – despite the Gillard government’s policy that they should not be held in detention centres.
Almost 2000 children are being held on Manus Island, Christmas and Cocos Islands and in other closed detention areas around the country, attracting criticism from advocacy groups and politicians.
The figures 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 high number of children in detention represented ‘‘a fundamental failure of policy’’.
‘‘The needs of children have to be more important,’’ he said.
‘‘Both sides of politics have let the Australian people down and let children down. Detention is no place for children. We are not a country that incarcerates children.’’
Statistics released by the the Department of Immigration show that as of last Monday, the department was processing protection claims for 3235 children, 1383 of whom were in community detention.
The remaining 1852 children are in closed facilities including ‘‘alternative places of detention, immigration residential housing or immigration transit accommodation’’.
The immigration detention statistics summary report for April 30 shows there were 566 children on Christmas Island but the department did not say how many are on Manus or Cocos Islands.
GetUp! is running a campaign to get the children released. National director Sam McLean said their plight could not remain out of sight and out of mind. ‘‘Australians need to speak up about this issue. If you are not fighting the treatment of these children you are condoning that treatment.’’
Children are also being kept in some of Australia’s most remote areas including at the Curtin detention centre in the Kimberley region of Western Australia.
They are also at Leonora, in the Goldfields region of Western Australia, and Wickham Point, 35kilometres outside Darwin.
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. Special purpose-built family accommodation provides children with a secure environment, education, health and support services while this process takes place.
‘‘The government’s aim has been to accommodate the majority of children in community detention,’’ the minister said on Saturday.
‘‘There are no children on Cocos Island and only in purpose-built family accommodation in the other places mentioned,’’ he said.
Opposition spokesman on immigration Scott Morrison said the Gllard government had the worst record of any government when it came to children in detention.He said there were now more children in detention than when the government announced its policy change in 2010.
The revelations about the numbers come a decade after an inquiry by the Australian Human Rights Commission into children in immigration detention found children had suffered repeated breaches of their human rights.
Commission president Gillian Triggs has said she has serious concerns about families with children detained at the Wickham Point and Curtin detention facilities.
Commonwealth Ombudsman Colin Neave has determined lower-security detention continues to constitute ‘‘immigration detention under the act, and involves a restriction on the liberty and movement of the child.’’
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.