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
SYDNEY NSW 1042
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.
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
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.
receives applications from persons in immigration detention and from
persons in the community.
from persons in immigration detention may include:
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)
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
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Refugee Review Tribunal
21 January 2002
Updated 9 January 2003.