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Commission Website: National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention

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Submission to the National

Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention from

Ms Camilla Cowley re: Issues

for Tiger 11 Unaccompanied Minors in and following detention

The conditions under which

children are detained

The prison atmosphere

of Australia's detention centres and the impact this had upon the UAMs

The traditional enemy

ethnicity and active opposition of the interpreters employed by DIMA

The lack of coherence

and logic in decisions as regards detainees ethnicity and the veracity

of their stories - primary decision makers failure rate as compared to

RRT decisions which saw many boys kept in detention for up to 12 months

longer than boys who arrived at the same time from the same area on the

same boat - some friends still remain in detention today up to two years

later when the boys know they are Hazara with the same history and the

same claim to protection - leading to complete distrust in the whole system

The difficulty in

gaining access to medical attention

The attitude of some

of the ACM staff - controlling by fear

The conflicting roles

of guardian as jailer and carer

The prevailing climate

of lack of basic rights while in detention

Health and Education impacts

of detention and TPV

Incidence of migraine

in UAMs expressing unacceptable levels of tension relating to their Temporary

protection - no certainty re their future impacting upon their present

ability to cope.

Unacceptably high

level of depression exhibiting in drop out rate and difficulty in maintaining

commitment to studies, school attendance, keeping appointments, committing

to future events or even deadlines for assignments etc.

Difficulty with concentration

inhibiting their learning ability, lack of ability to retain information.

The lack of incentive

towards working to achieve YR 12 pass as tertiary education is not available

for Temporary Visa refugees under HECS - loss of hope, loss of enthusiasm,

hard to maintain the struggle to achieve against the odds when there is

no perceivable reward for effort

Tendency to over

sensitivity to health concerns - bordering on hypochondria exhibiting

the need to control some aspect of their lives in the void of uncertainty;

or an expression of the depth of fear in the vulnerability of their situation

if their health fails - Australia doesn't want them and would want them

even less if they are unhealthy

High incidence of

stress related health issues eg skin complaints, stomach pain, severe

indigestion, gastric reflux, low weight - poor immune levels

Difficulty with concentration

inhibiting their learning ability, lack of ability to retain information

Inhibited ability

to trust; tendency to be suspicious or fearful of authority in all forms

; believe they are being watched and judged for failure or any criticism

of government - no belief in their freedom of speech.

Guardianship Issues

Conflict between

their ultimate guardian being also their perceived jailer and the one

most responsible for the policy which sees them under temporary protection

and seen as criminals for seeking asylum under the only manner available

to them.

Their parent figure is their greatest detractor in their eyes and the

dreadful conflict this brings to their lives is exacerbated by the loss

of their own families either through separation of miles or death of parents

- no knowledge of fate of families left behind and knowing they can never

return to find family fate and return to safe haven here leaves them torn

between fear for their lives and love of family. They feel they are deserting

their family but fear being forcibly returned to an unknown but almost

certainly dangerous situation - an impossible internal conflict for which

they see the Minister Mr Ruddock as ultimately responsible in overseeing

a policy not allowing family reunion. No access to family because of their

surrogate family ie guardian, and no access to assisting their family

to also find safe haven here.

In Qld, they have

a good relationship with the Minister responsible for their immediate

welfare but see her as unable to exert influence on their behalf in visa



Those who spent least

time in detention have better mental and physical health, have a greater

ability to maintain hope and trust. This bears out calls for the detention

to be reduced as far as possible if not possible to have it abandoned

altogether especially for children. For many of the Tigers, it has taken

months of care and attention to restore some level of equilibrium which

is now being threatened by talk of forced repatriation destabilizing the

fragile balance built over a long period. They need some certainty in

their lives to recover from the impact of detention, the shock of the

prison atmosphere, the labeling as 'illegals', the lack of sympathy, absence

of belief in their refugee status, the lottery type decision making process

as to who is or is not a refugee. They all have histories of trauma and

often torture and the present regime almost entirely destroys their ability

to recover from this history in the dreadful uncertainty inherent in this


The children of Tiger

11 have little ability to plan or work towards a future which could give

them something to hold onto in the loneliness of loss of family and loss

of connection to their home country. The September 11 terrorism has brought

grave repercussions upon them in the community where there is no recognition

in many areas, including government, that these boys are here trying to

escape the same terror in their own lives. Feeling unable to express their

concerns and their grief for fear this will impact upon decisions made

on their future here in Australia, traps them in an internalized world

of alienation, fear, anger, distrust that is destructive of hope, health

and long term development. The detention regime begins the dehumanizing

process which is exacerbated by the Temporary Protection Visa system which


No human being should

be subjected to the present Australian policy on asylum seekers and for

children, it eats away at their ability to develop towards their potential,

having debilitating effects upon that development long after they have

left detention, exaggerated by the grudging granting of temporary haven

only with the implied threat of forced return and the accompanying grudging

access to rights to education, health and pursuit of happiness.


Updated 9 January 2003.