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Children in detention: report released

Asylum Seekers and Refugees

The Australian Human Rights Commission welcomes the tabling in Parliamentlast night of The Forgotten Children, the Report of the National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention 2014.

The Commission also welcomes the release of children in immigration detention over recent months.  Since the Inquiry began in February 2014, about half of the 1138 children detained at that time are now in the community or in community detention.

The Inquiry considered the impact of immigration detention on the health, well-being and development of children. It reviewed changes in law, policy and practice in the treatment of children in immigration detention over the ten years since the Commission’s 2004 report, A Last Resort?

The report provides compelling first-hand evidence of the impact that prolonged immigration detention has on the mental and physical health of children.

“With the help of medical experts, including 5 paediatricians and 4 child psychiatrists, the Inquiry team gave voice to these children, most of whom have been held for well over a year and some for years,” said Commission President, Professor Gillian Triggs.

The report identifies the impact of detention on the key developmental stages of children as babies, pre-schoolers, primary aged children and teenagers. 

“The report cites medical data that shows 34% of children have been diagnosed with serious mental disorders. The report also found that the lengthy detention of children breaches Australia’s international obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child,” said Professor Triggs.

The report has 2 key recommendations:

  • Recommendation 1 calls for all children and their families in immigration detention in Australia and Nauru to be released into the community
  • Recommendation 2 calls for the Migration Act to be amended to provide that children and parents may be detained only for a strictly limited period of time necessary to conduct health, identity and security checks.

The scale of first-hand evidence collected for the Inquiry is unprecedented. The Inquiry team visited 11 detention centres, with repeat visits to Christmas Island after reports of attempted suicide and self-harm. 1,233  interviews were conducted with children and their parents including those in detention and those who had been released into the community.

The Inquiry also received 239 submissions from the public and stakeholders, took evidence from 41 witnesses at 5 public hearings, and relied significantly on data provided by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.

“The progressive release of children by the Government over recent months is a humane response to the misery of these children and makes the vital point that efforts to ‘stop the boats’ are not dependent on children and their families being detained for prolonged periods,” stated Professor Triggs.

“Successive governments have failed children by locking them up in immigration detention. I urge the Government to continue to release these children and their families as a matter of the highest priority,” she said.

The Commission remains concerned about children currently in detention. Recent data from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection shows that 211 children remain in detention throughout Australia and a further 119 children are held indefinitely on Nauru.

“It is my sincere hope that the medical evidence and personal stories and findings of this report will ensure that Australians will say ‘never again’ to policies that cause harm to the health and development of children,” said Professor Triggs.

The National Children’s Commissioner, Megan Mitchell, assisted the Inquiry on several visits to detention centres.

“Children who come to Australia seeking asylum should have the same rights as those born in this country and should be protected from any activities that could harm their development. The prolonged detention of children is clearly not in their best interests and, as the report shows, can result in significant mental and developmental harm,” said Ms Mitchell.

The report can be found here -


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Media contact: Sarah Bamford 0417 957 525