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Submission to the National

Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention from

the Refugee Review Tribunal

Dr Sev Ozdowski


Human Rights Commissioner

Acting Disability Discrimination Commissioner


GPO Box 5218


Dear Dr Ozdowski

Thank you for

your letter received on 2 January 2002 in which you enclose a copy

of the terms of reference of the Commission's National Inquiry into

Children in Immigration Detention.

The Tribunal

welcomes the opportunity to assist the Commission in its inquiry.

By way of background to its initial investigations I have taken the

opportunity below to briefly outline how the Tribunal addresses the

situation of children who are either primary applicants for review

or are members of a family unit seeking review before it. I would

be happy to provide further information as the Commission's investigations


Role of Tribunal

The Tribunal

reviews decisions made by delegates of the Minister for Immigration

and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs to refuse or cancel protection

visas. A criterion for the grant of a protection visa is that the

applicant is a person to whom Australia owes protection obligations

under the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.


for review

The Tribunal

receives applications from persons in immigration detention and from

persons in the community.


from persons in immigration detention may include:

  • unaccompanied

    minors in detention

  • minors in

    detention as part of a family group

  • minors not

    in detention but included in a detainee's application (for example,

    where the first applicant such as the father of a family is in detention

    but the dependents such as the wife and children remain in the community)

All applications

involving persons in detention are streamed for priority processing.

On receipt of an application showing the applicant's location as a

detention centre, the Tribunal's case management system electronic

record which is created for each new application is immediately flagged.

The hard copy file cover is also given a marking to draw attention

to the fact that it is a priority case. If there are children in detention

an additional cover marking is placed on it.

The DIMIA file

is immediately requested. When the Department's file is available,

a list of detention cases ready to be allocated to Tribunal Members

is made available to the Deputy Principal Member (or Senior Member

in the Tribunal's Melbourne office), with the result that each detention

case is allocated to a Member for consideration within a few working



by Member

The Member's

consideration of the case should be completed within a target time

of 70 days (a shorter time scale than for applicants in the community).

If the Tribunal becomes aware that an applicant (child or adult) is

placed in detention part way through review processing, the priority

flags are then placed on the case and the Member is advised that the

case is now for priority processing.

The Procedural

Guide for Members which is produced in the Tribunal for Members'

guidance contains a chapter which provides advice on the consideration

of cases involving minors as applicants, drawing on the UNHCR Handbook.

The need to be sensitive to the minor's age, level of education and

torture/trauma suffered is emphasised. I have attached a copy of that

chapter from the current edition of the Guide for your information.

Contact with

children in detention

There are no

specific written procedures regarding contacting children in detention.

Contact is undertaken with detainees as follows:


is sent to minors included in a parent's application, by corresponding

direct with the main parent applicant, asking that the main applicant

inform each included person (listed by name on the letter) and where

necessary, reply to the Tribunal for them. Permission to communicate

with included persons through the main applicant is obtained on the

review application form.

For unaccompanied

minors in detention (as for other applicants), correspondence is sent

to their adviser/authorised recipient and to them at their mailing

address. The number of applications from unaccompanied minors in detention

is quite small, and the Tribunal has not experienced any difficulties

in communicating with them. The Registry experience is that not all

unaccompanied minors have a guardian stated in their review application.

The Tribunal does not normally contact guardians.

Training of


Training is provided

to Tribunal Members in relation to torture and trauma victims by STARTTS

(Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma

Survivors) and in relation to cross-cultural sensitivities, both including

reference, as appropriate to minors. In March 2002, as part of its

regular Member training program STARTTS will be providing a session

for Members during which it has been asked to specifically address

torture and trauma issues as they affect children.

The Tribunal

would be happy to respond to any specific queries about its procedures

or provide further information as your inquiry progresses. I enclose

a copy of our latest Annual Report for your information. Please contact

me if I can be of further assistance.

Yours faithfully

Steve Karas

Principal Member

Refugee Review Tribunal

21 January 2002


Updated 9 January 2003.