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2010 Media Release: Plans to move children from immigration detention facilities welcomed

Rights Rights and Freedoms

The Australian Human Rights Commission has welcomed today's announcement that the Australian Government will move some families and unaccompanied minors out of immigration detention facilities into community-based accommodation.

Commission President Catherine Branson QC, said the Commission also hoped the Government would expand these efforts and implement them as quickly as possible.

“During the Commission's recent visits to immigration detention facilities on Christmas Island and in Darwin , we were seriously concerned about the high number of children in detention and the increasing length of time for which many of them are being detained,” Ms Branson said.

“We welcome the government's commitment to use the existing residence determination system to move some families and unaccompanied minors into community detention.

“The Commission has been raising concerns over the past 12 months that this alternative system was not being used for vulnerable groups in detention, so we are very pleased to see that the government intends to start using it more broadly,” she said.

Ms Branson said the residence determination system was introduced by the former government in 2005 for the very purpose of allowing vulnerable groups to reside in community-based accommodation rather than in detention facilities.

“We encourage the Government and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship to expand this initiative to include all families with children and unaccompanied minors in detention, and to ensure that they are moved as quickly as possible,” Ms Branson said.

“There are currently hundreds of children in detention and some of them have been there for many months already – we should not delay any longer.”

Ms Branson said the initiative announced today should be reinforced by making legislative changes to ensure that in future, children will only be detained if it is truly a measure of last resort, and that if they are detained it is for the shortest appropriate period of time. She said this would be consistent with Australia 's obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child .

The Australian Human Rights Commission has conducted recent visits to the immigration detention facilities on Christmas Island and in Darwin and will be releasing a comprehensive report regarding immigration detention on Christmas Island at the end of October. This will be followed by a public statement on immigration detention in Darwin in November.

Media contact: Louise McDermott 0419 258 597