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Submission to the National

Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention from

the NSW Commission for Children

and Young People


The Commission would

like to thank the children and young people who participated in the project

and demonstrated great courage in allowing us to hear and tell their often

painful and traumatic stories, in a hope that things would change for

the better.






























The Commission for Children

and Young People

The Commission for

Children and Young People (hereafter referred to as the Commission) was

established by the Commission for Children and Young People Act 1998.

The Act lays down three statutory principles which govern the work of

the Commission:

(a) the safety,

welfare and wellbeing of children are the paramount considerations

(b) the views of

children are to be given serious consideration and taken into account

(c) a co-operative

relationship between children and their families and community is important

to the safety, welfare and well-being of children: s10.

The Commission is

required to give priority to the interests and needs of vulnerable children:


Children are defined

in the Act as all people under the age of 18 years and the terms 'child'

and 'children' will be used in this submission to refer to children and

young people under the age of 18 years.

One of the principal

functions of the Commission is to make recommendations to government and

non-government agencies on legislation, policies, practices and services

affecting children: s11(d).

The Commission's Response

The Commission is

pleased to have the opportunity to respond to the National Inquiry into

Children in Immigration Detention. The issues raised by the Terms of Reference

link a number of aspects of detention with childhood opportunity and experience

that have significant impact for outcomes in a range of areas of later

life. As such the Commission has a great interest in ensuring, alongside

of the many "professional" submissions that are likely to be

made, that the views of children and young people who have experienced

immigration detention are heard. This is particularly important given

that so many of the children and young people settle in NSW, after immigration


The Commission commends

to the Inquiry key aspects of the submissions to the Inquiry from the

Alliance of Health Professionals Concerned About the Health of Asylum

Seekers and their Children and the Australian Psychological Society. In

view of both submissions excellent summaries of research and impact of

detention on the health and development of children and young people,

especially those already suffering trauma, the Commission will not attempt

to canvass the same matters, but focus on telling the children's and young

people's stories.

Being locked up is

a difficult, often traumatic, experience. That is why imprisonment is

the most severe punishment in most criminal justice systems, reserved

for the most serious offences and the most serious offenders. Convicted

prisoners often find it easier to cope with their imprisonment because:

  • They know the

    maximum period of imprisonment, that is, they know the latest date by

    which they will be released, and so literally can count down the days;

  • They know they

    have been imprisoned following a fair and open trial at which they had

    an opportunity to state their case, to defend themselves;

  • They know they

    are being imprisoned as punishment for crime, as a result of their own

    serious misconduct.

Virtually all those

who come to Australia seeking to be recognised and protected as refugees

are detained by operation of law pending determination of their claim.

Unlike convicted prisoners,

  • They do not know

    the maximum length of their detention, that is, their detention is indefinite


  • They have not

    had the opportunity to challenge their detention, to state their case

    and defend themselves, in an independent court, because under the law

    no court has the power to review their detention or order their release


  • They have done

    nothing wrong, they have not been convicted of any wrong-doing, even

    of a minor nature, but they have done no more than claim a right under

    Australian and international law, to seek and obtain protection from


For these reasons

asylum seekers may find detention harder to endure than prisoners do.

Detention also comes after a long, often dangerous journey to Australia

and, in the case of refugees, after years of persecution or fear of persecution

in their own countries. Many are traumatised by these experiences.

Detention is hardest

for children. That is why the Convention on the Rights of the Child

provides that a child shall only be detained "as a last resort and

for the shortest appropriate period of time". [4]

Children have been among the asylum seekers detained longest in Australia.

In one case a very young child of a Chinese family was detained for five

years and six months, from November 1994 to May 2000. In another case

two Cambodian teenage brothers were detained for five years.

This submission examines

the experiences of child detainees from their perspectives. It is the

result of intensive interviews with ten children now recognised as refugees

and living in the community on temporary protection visas. All were detained

as children and were released within the past two years. It examines their

experiences against the obligations Australia has as a party to the Convention

on the Rights of the Child. It indicates that Australia is in violation

of key provisions of the treaty that relate not only to the fact of detention

itself but also to the treatment of the children while detained. Further

this treatment breaches Australia's own Immigration Detention Standards

and questions the adequacy, implementation and monitoring of the standards.

The overriding theme

and focus of this submission is the impact of 'imprisonment' on the children

and young people, who are clearly traumatised by earlier events in their

lives, but come to Australia seeking refuge. The very logic of mandatory

detention as it applies to children and young people is flawed, as a duty

of care is not maintained. Consequently this submission expresses what

the children wish, which is for mandatory detention to be abolished, especially

for children and their families. Further, in recognition of the time it

takes to establish a different processing system the submission outlines

numerous changes that must be made immediately to detention to reduce

the physical and psychological trauma and reach a humane level of "administrative


2.0 THE


This submission is

based on the rights of children recognised in the Convention on the

Rights of the Child. [5] The Australian Government

ratified the Convention in 1990 and is bound in international law to comply

with its requirements. The Convention has a number of provisions that

apply to child detainees in Australia. This submission will consider a

number of these provisions in some detail. Other provisions establish

the foundational principles for law, policy and practice in relation to

these children and underlie the discussion in the submission. These underlying

provisions concern the overall framework of detention of child asylum

seekers, the principle of the best interests of the child and the obligation

to provide care and assistance to child detainees.

The detention


The Migration

Act 1989 (Cth) in effect requires the indefinite detention of virtually

all asylum seeker children. This submission does not debate the lawfulness

of this because that issue appears to be outside the terms of reference

of the inquiry being undertaken by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity

Commission. However, the Commission considers that these provisions in

the Act and the resultant policies and practices violate the Convention

on the Rights of the Child article 37(b) that provides

"No child

shall be deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily. The

arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity

with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and

for the shortest appropriate period of time."

The detention of

child asylum seekers under this system is not "a measure of last

resort" and is not "for the shortest appropriate period of time".

On the contrary it is the first and only resort and for an indefinite

period of time. It therefore violates this provision of the Convention.

The Commission concurs

with the opinion frequently expressed by independent experts, domestic

and international, that this form of detention is arbitrary and so a violation

of the prohibition of arbitrary detention found both in the Convention

on the Rights of the Child article 37(b) and in the International

Covenant on Civil and Political Rights article 9. [6]

The best interests


The Commission also

affirms the right of children expressed in the Convention on the Rights

of the Child article 3.1.

"In all

actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private

social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities

or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary


The principle binds

the Australian Government in its administration of on-shore asylum seekers

as much as in any other area of public policy and practice affecting children.

This submission is based upon this right. The experiences of child detainees

related in this submission indicate that actions take in relation to them

have not been in their best interests.

The special

responsibility towards child asylum seekers

Under the Convention

on the Rights of the Child Australia has special obligations towards child

detainees over and above those it has towards children generally. The

Convention article 22.1 provides that states must provide "appropriate

protection and humanitarian assistance" to these children.


Parties shall take appropriate measures to ensure that a child who is

seeking refugee status or who is considered a refugee in accordance

with applicable international or domestic law and procedures shall,

whether unaccompanied or accompanied by his or her parents or by any

other person, receive appropriate protection and humanitarian assistance

in the enjoyment of applicable rights set forth in the present Convention

and in other international human rights or humanitarian instruments

to which the said States are Parties."

Both accompanied

and unaccompanied child detainees have the right to "appropriate

protection and humanitarian assistance". However, the obligations

on the state are especially significant in relation to children separated

from their parents and families. Under Australian law, the Minister for

Immigration is guardian of these children, acting in the place of and

with all the responsibilities of their parents. This additional responsibility

receives specific recognition in the Convention on the Rights of the

Child article 20.1.

"A child

temporarily or permanently deprived of his or her family environment,

or in whose own best interests cannot be allowed to remain in that environment,

shall be entitled to special protection and assistance provided by the


The experiences of

children related here demonstrate that the rights of child detainees under

these articles have been violated.


This submission presents

the experiences of child detainees. The Convention on the Rights on

the Child article 12 recognises the right of a child "capable

of forming his or her own views … to express those views freely in

all matters affecting the child". This submission records the

experiences in detention of refugee children. They were interviewed for

this purpose. All spent periods of months in immigration detention in

2000 and 2001. They have all been all recognised under Australian and

international law as refugees. They were not economic migrants. They had

not violated the law. After being recognised as refugees they were granted

temporary protection visas and released from the camps.


Ethnic and

cultural background

Ten children were

interviewed. Nine were born in Afghanistan with one child being from Iran.

All identified their religion as Muslim, six were Shiite Muslim. Children

identified with a variety of cultural groups. Two children chose to identify

as Australian rather than specifying an ethnic background.

Ethnic background participants

Detention experience

All the children

were detained in one of three centres. The majority were detained in Curtin

(six) with three being detained in Port Hedland and one in Woomera. The

children all remained in detention for a period of months with the average

length of detention being 140 days. The shortest period of detention was

a few months and the longest well over a year. Of particular concern was

that the youngest child interviewed spent the longest period in detention.

Length of time in detention

The mean age of the

children entering detention was 14 years. All of the children had left

detention within the last two years. Children came into detention in a

variety of circumstances, some without an adult guardian or any family

at all. Three others were accompanied by at least one parent and one travelled

with his extended family.



Qualitative research

techniques were used to investigate the experiences of the children. This

came in the form of in-depth individual interviews with the children with

each interview lasting between 45 and 80 minutes and recorded on tape.

These interviews were then transcribed and the tapes destroyed. The children

were reimbursed $40 to cover the expenses of participating in the interview.

Confidentiality was assured and all children (and in one case their guardian)

provided informed consent to take part. This included signing a consent

form (see appendix A)

Interview structure

In all

but two cases, the children were interviewed without guardians. In the

case of the child aged eight years his mother was present and in part

helped him translate his experiences and provided support. In the parts

of the report where the mother is relating on behalf of her child the

text is italicised to clearly differentiate between the two. With the

young boy play techniques were used to elicit responses in a fun and non-threatening

way. These included drawing, role-play and a game in which the child had

three wishes. In one other case two sisters were interviewed together.

Given that their experiences were near identical in that they were almost

always in each other's company, they have not been quoted separately.

Young People in detention

A translator was

necessary for interviews with seven of the ten children. All the participants

knew the translator, which assisted in creating an environment where participants

felt comfortable sharing their story. However, it should be noted that

the translation wasn't simultaneous and so some words would have been

lost in the translation.


To ensure consistency

across interviews a basic instrument (see appendix B) was developed. The

instrument provided a guide for interviewers but also sought to ensure

that the children raised issues of concern to them. Interviewers encouraged

the children to speak generally about their experiences and concerns rather

than be constrained by a rigid set of questions to be answered. An introduction

guide was also developed for interviewers to inform the children involved

of their rights during the interview process (appendix C). All participants

completed a demographic questionnaire (appendix D).


All interviewees

were recruited through an organisation providing rehabilitation and support

services to refugees. This service works specifically with refugees and

has strong links within the community. The recruitment process tried to

interview children who had a diversity of experiences. There was a particular

emphasis on inviting children who came to Australia as unaccompanied minors

to participate. Given the higher levels of males in immigration detention

it was expected that more males would be interviewed than females.



Leaving home

The focus of the

interviews was the experience of detention. However, many of the children

interviewed referred briefly to the reasons for their flight and gave

accounts of their travel to Australia. Each said that his or her departure

came after close family members had been imprisoned, disappeared or been

killed. Their departures occurred in a climate of trauma and uncertainty.

Few knew where they were going and none had any clear idea of what would

await them on arrival here.

The Taliban took

my father and my older brother and my mother was very devastated by

what had happened to us and she told me I had to leave. She thought

that my cousin was going to leave and I could go with him and I had

no idea of where we were going and what arrangements were made …

(Unaccompanied teenage boy)

My brother and

myself are from the city of ____________ in Afghanistan. And we left

Afghanistan because my father was in prison from the Taliban and he

feared for our safety and he contacted my uncle and arranged for us

to be sent out of the country. (Unaccompanied teenage boy)

The Taliban took

two of my brothers and we do not know what has happened to them. And

since then my father decided to save us as it was very difficult to

lose any more of his family. (Teenage girl)


to Australia

The journey to Australia

was difficult and dangerous, a further cause of trauma for the children.

Many of the children interviewed grew up in villages, some in remote parts

of Afghanistan where education was limited, and they had little or no

experience of other countries and cultures. For village people from a

land-locked country like Afghanistan the experience of travelling by car,

plane and boat was both exciting and frightening. These children had never

seen the sea before embarking on a long voyage in cramped conditions in

unseaworthy vessels.

First we left Afghanistan

and eventually came to Indonesia. Mother was pregnant and she born her

baby there by caesarian. Then we moved to the boat and it was so difficult

for my mum as she had a baby on the boat and all around there was water

and it was a small boat and all the people were sitting next to each

other. We could not sleep. We had to sit and sleep. It was so hard.

I thought the boat would be like Titanic boat but there was a hole in

it and we wanted help. (Teenage girl)

I was 13 years

old when I left my parents. I was born in Afghanistan. I came from Afghanistan

to Australia via Indonesia I came near to beach with smugglers and I

saw many, many people speaking my language. I was surprised as my smugglers

did not speak my language and I did not understand their language when

they speak. In Afghanistan my father gave me money and said when I see

the boat to give it to the smugglers. I gave the money and he pushed

me and this is the boat and in this we go to Australia. I gave the money

to the smugglers. And this is the first time I came in a car for I lived

in a village in Afghanistan and I was very sick for the nine days I

came to Australia … I was very sick. All the people's hands and

legs on me, everything. I can't say, "Please get off" because

I was very sick (Unaccompanied teenage boy)

We stayed a few

days in Indonesia and from there we were sent with friends of the smugglers

and for two days we stayed in a hotel and we travelled to the beach.

It was a small tiny boat for two or three people and they put twelve

people in that boat. It was the most terrible experience in my life

as I had never travelled by boat and when I saw the sea it was shocking.

Then we were taken from this boat to a bigger boat that just fitted

120 people. Four days and nights and we did not know where we were going

- an unknown destiny. (Unaccompanied teenage boy)

My father arranged

a trip for us with a smuggler. He took us from our homeland and after

a long trip to Kabul. The smuggler placed us in a boat, a very big boat

and later after we travelled for a while we were placed in a small boat.

Sixty to seventy people could be accommodated and then from there to

another boat. This other boat had about 220 people. It was quite overloaded

and it was dark. It took us several days and nights to arrive in Australia

and on our way once our boat had engine problems. (Teenage girl)

We travelled by

boat from Indonesia. It took us two nights and three days. The boat

was nearly about to be sunk and we were saying our last prayer. It was

very traumatic for us. Then we arrived at Christmas Island. We were

not allowed to land and told that we had to stay in the boat and we

stayed for 24 hours. It was very difficult as it was very overcrowded

and people were very exhausted from the trip. (Teenage boy)

Some of the children

continued to experience trauma arising from the trip for some time afterwards.

I was very sick

because of the trip and in a few days I was very dizzy as though the

room was circling around me and even now when I travel for a few hours

I get the same feeling and feel I am going through the same experience.

(Unaccompanied teenage boy)

First contact

Some children spoke

positively of their first contact with Australians. There was some fear

at the strangeness of the first Australians they met.

This is the first

time I see English people and hear them speak English. I did not understand

what they say and I was scared somewhat because our hair and our face

was different and our language different too and I thought, "Oh

my God, what are they?" (Unaccompanied teenage boy)

Australia people

came by our way and they help us … (Unaccompanied teenage boy)

When we arrived

we saw Australian police and they were happy that we had made it and

arrived safe. The people from the government took us from that boat

to their own boat and then another two days on that boat to reach Australia.

They took us to somewhere that was very big and they checked up on us

and also our baggage. Even after this check up we were happy we had

made it safely. At last we were on the land. (Teenage girl))

For other children,

the first Australians they encountered were remembered as having refused

them assistance and threatened violence.

[W]e wanted help

and we thought Australian ship was going to come and we would shout

and scream that we need help. And they came to us and they said no,

they can't do anything, they would fix it a little bit but we have to

go back to Indonesia. So in that condition they were trying to send

us back. And there were women pregnant and we were showing them they

were pregnant and they were shouting that we had to go back. Those people

were shouting and they were showing their hands like they wanted to

hit us and saying, "You have to go back" … The Australian

boat came again and said, "Why don't you go back?" and we

said, "Our boat has a hole". All of us were crying, all the

small children and the women. And the men were crying. They put our

food in the sea as the boat had a hole and we had to make it lighter

and so we did that. And after one day the Australian boat came again

and everything was going around our ship. (Airplanes?) Yes. We were

shaking our hands and waving to show them we were needing help but they

didn't do anything. After one day they came again and finally all the

women, the children and the men were crying that we really needed help

and they said, "Ok, we are going to get you to Australia".

(Teenage girl)

[T]hey take us

to a hall [on Christmas Island], like inside like a basketball stadium

but no people playing. You have to line up for food. … very

hard with men, women, children, very dirty. No bed but bench. We sleep

on this bench - very dirty, very dirty. Our faces are red, red like

bugs eat us, sunburn. We need cream the officer said no cream. My face

is burnt red …[We] just have one toilet not much, one only.

No there was one for men and one for girls. (Boy under 10 years and

his mother)

It was around 10pm

when we arrived at the camp. We did not have enough food in the boat

and we were hungry. There was a person who could speak Farsi, one of

the guards, but I was too scared to ask for food. There were six people

and they placed us in a room without checking with us if we needed anything.

I was very sick because of the trip (Unaccompanied teenage boy)

[When we were not

allowed to land for 24 hours] two officers came and they took some films

or videos and they brought water but not food. [Sick people] were told

that they could move from the first floor to the top floor of the boat.

You can go up on the top deck and you will be all right. But they were

not allowed to land. The conditions on the first floor of the boat were

very overcrowded. (Teenage boy)

Yes, my ship was

too full so we arrived in an army boat. I do not know where it [where

we landed] was but they took our bags. It was close to water. They checked

us and took our bags aside and then a bus came and we drove for two

hours and we went to Port Hedland. (Unaccompanied teenage boy)

[After arriving

we] flew to Adelaide and then, about six or seven hours hours, we went

by bus to Woomera. They checked up on us [when we arrived] and they

took our things, like rings and watches, in case we lose them. I asked

if they would give them back and they said yes. I was with my uncle

and we stayed together. (Teenage boy)





The Convention

on the Rights of the Child

Article 27 provides

1. States Parties

recognise the right of every child to a standard of living adequate

for the child's physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development.

2. The parent(s) or others responsible for the child have the primary

responsibility to secure, within their abilities and financial capacities,

the conditions of living necessary for the child's development.

3. States Parties, in accordance with national conditions and within

their means, shall take appropriate measures to assist parents and others

responsible for the child to implement this right and shall in case

of need provide material assistance and support programs, particularly

with regard to nutrition, clothing and housing.

The children interviewed

spoke about the actual living conditions in detention both in general

terms and in relation to specific aspects of these conditions.

The children's


The children interviewed

described the conditions in the camps as harsh, crowded, difficult and

foreign to their cultures and prior experiences.

When I first came

to the detention centre there were different people from different countries

and different cultures - really difficult to believe it. It was like

a desert … It felt like we were in a cage. We could not go anywhere

with all the fences and that stuff … It was like jail as there

was no care … [M]any of the people were angry because of the time

they were in detention. The children were crying. My father is so angry

and I don't know why … It was a bad experience. There were no times

when we were happy there … We were at war in Afghanistan because

of the Taliban and we thought we have come to another war here. In the

detention centre, always soldiers all around us. Oh my God, can the

Taliban get us again? … It was so hot, so very hot and lots of

flies and we needed a fan. (Teenage girl))

I don't want to

come back because the fence is too high and spikey. I don't want to

come back again in the camp. [The fence was] big and the upper was spikey

- one room and a fence around it, then one other room with fence around

it. And there were snakes, big and little ones like cobras - scary.

My dad killed one. (Boy under 10 years and his mother)

[When I arrived

in Port Hedland] they did not ask us [if I was by myself]. They just

put a tag on us and gave us a plastic bag with some shampoo and soap

in it and told us to go to a certain room. We were sharing a room with

ten other detainees but the same age, all underage, all without families,

all boys. One room and all doubled up. (Unaccompanied teenage boy)

The camps were divided

into sections. One section was reserved for new arrivals undergoing initial

intake. New arrivals were segregated there from other detainees in the

camp. [7] This section was known as the closed camp,

in contrast with the sections known as the open or free camp with greater

freedom of movement within the fenced area and higher levels of activity.

The children spoke of the particular hardship in the closed camp.

I still remember

how terrified I was, because hearing all these voices, all these people

screaming and yelling at the camp. They were restless and we were restless

too. It was really very difficult circumstances that took us there and

I cannot describe it. It was one of my most difficult experiences to

be in that closed camp. So we spent more than two and half months in

this closed camp, one of the more terrible experiences being in such

circumstances, and then one month in the free camp. (Unaccompanied teenage


It is difficult

to describe [the closed camp] … It was like a prison, no window

to open to see outside. They were taking us outside for an hour in the

morning and an hour in the afternoon. The window had small holes, but

too dusty and windy - blocked with all this dust. (Unaccompanied teenage


[In the closed

camp] there was not enough space to wander around and too hot to stand

there. The police would check up on us four or five times a day and

also in the night to take the roll … they would come into our room

… (Unaccompanied teenage boy)

Two children commented

that conditions improved before official visitors came to the camp.

When people, officials,

came to visit our detention centre they made everything good and, when

they were gone, it went back to before. When they visited, we had hot

water, playground … there was good water and good food. When they

go they don't care anymore. (Teenage girl))

Detainees are given

work opportunities to earn some money to spend at a small store in the

camps. They can buy additional food, drinks and personal items. They receive

low rates of pay and are not paid in cash but in credit at the store or

in telephone cards. Children considered that without this extra money

they could not have what they wanted or even needed. As a result family

members were forced to work for the very low pay for their children's

sake. There is insufficient work for all who want it and so the work is


There is no shop

in the detention centre, just a room with things to sell. We had no

money and to earn money we were forced to wash toilets or work in the

kitchen. Everyone was fighting to wash the toilets to buy a coke. My

small sister saw a soldier drinking coke and my small sister wanted

some coke and he said go away, like swearing, but we did not know what

he was saying. My father was forced to work for his small child, to

wash the toilet and then to get a coke to give to her. You have to wait

in line to wash the toilet. Especially the people who have been in the

detention centre for one year, they had to do it as they did not have

clothes to wear. (Teenage girl)

Children are not

permitted to work and so unaccompanied children are unable to earn any

money to buy additional food and drink or other goods.

We had one shop,

one week open one day 7am to 1pm. The people who have money buy and

most of them that lived with me brought money with them. They [were]

buying tapes and cassettes. I did not have any money and I applied for

a job, but they said, "No, you are underage and we cannot give

you a job". (Unaccompanied teenage boy)

Shelter including

bedrooms and bathrooms

The children interviewed

said that living conditions in the camps were very crowded with many people,

including at times from different families, sharing a single small room.

The rooms were very impersonal. There were no cupboards in which to put

clothing and other personal possessions.

Me and my sister

and my brother and small sister were all together. They wanted to put

us all in one room, but we said we can't, the rooms are very small rooms.

So they gave us two rooms and my mother and father and my small brother

were in the other one … We had bunks. They were good. There was

nothing else in the room. (Teenage girl) My cousin and my dad and mum

and me sleep on the ground [at Curtin]. We live in a room a little

bit bigger than this room, four families. Before when we came in camp,

give us one room for four families together…a single man with women

and children. I think 15 or 16 people in one room … After four

or five months [they] give us small room, two beds and my son sleep

on bare floor. We have no clothes. (Boy under 10 years and his mother)

[I stayed in Woomera]

with my family. There were other families but they were separated from

us. I stayed with my uncle in one room. But his wife and his son were

in another room but they were connected. (Teenage boy)

The living conditions

reported for children who arrived without their parents or families were

particularly crowded, causing difficulties for younger children accommodated

with older ones. Unaccompanied boys were "sharing room with 22 other

detainees" (Unaccompanied teenage boy).

We slept with 22

boys in one room. … They are underage and some of them sleep in

the day and not in the night as the day was very, very hot … We

would try to sleep and want the light off, not on, but they said no.

They are stronger than us and bigger than us. If we fight they hit us.

We fight with each other, hitting each other by glass, by everything.

Then after that they became two rooms. One group slept in this room

and one group in that other room … For one month our minds are

not working as we can't sleep - in the day we can't sleep, in the night

we can't sleep … Twenty-two boys but the room was very hot. We

had air conditioner but it was not working and they did not fix it for

us … (Unaccompanied teenage boy)

When there was noise

or someone went missing after dark, then all the boys in the room would

be woken and often told to muster outside.

When we are sleeping

some 17 or 18 year old go to his friends to play cards and the police

come at 3am or 2am and check us with the light and if the person is

not sleeping he get up everybody. "Come on get up, out." We

were very depressed. "What has happened?", we are crying.

And he said, "If the person is not sleeping then we get you all

up". And we say, "It is not our fault. That's the boy's fault.

He has not come in." I was scared what had happened. Maybe something

wrong with them … The second night police said, "The boy is

not sleeping here and everyone wake, everyone wake up. Come on outside,

line up." 3am, 2am, 12 o'clock - if one or two person is not asleep,

we are all got up. One night one person went to the toilet and he did

not go to any other camp, because from 12 o'clock the gate is closed.

During that time the police came and checked and he was not here and

he woke everyone and we have to line up. Then the man came back from

the toilet and the police said, "Where have you been?" "I

went toilet." "Oh," the policeman said, "very sorry".

Our eyes became very red as we can't sleep. And all the time some people

asking if we drink something to be like this. But we say, "No,

we can't sleep enough". The older persons, they are happy, they

are understanding each other. From 10 o'clock or 11 o'clock they turn

off the light and they are all sleeping. It is just the underage people.

I was just 13 and it was the bigger ones, 16 and 17 years. I could not

get enough sleep because they are so noisy and they were sleeping during

the day and they would not let them sleep during the night plus the

police checks. (Unaccompanied teenage boy)

The only thing

was experience from the guards. If one detainee left the room they would

come in the middle of the night and wake us all up and count us all

and that was one of the unpleasant experiences in the camp. (Unaccompanied

teenage boy)

One boy said that

he was separated from the only family member he was travelling with, a

young cousin, and placed in a room with a number of adult males.

I spent another

week sharing with some other detainees, three Iranians and four Afghans.

My cousin was taken to another room sharing with others. We were in

the same area but different rooms. [In my room] They were adults 20-25

year old . . . all adults. (Unaccompanied teenage boy)

Sharing with adults

caused particular difficulties for one young woman. The room was very

crowded and the presence of a young man raised particular cultural and

religious sensitivities for her and her young sister.

We were sharing

a room with three other families. … We were sharing a room with

families plus a single man in that room too …It was not easy. Two

families, one had five girls of our age and the other, two girls and

a son aged 3. They had both parents. There were two bunk beds and I

was sharing with my brother. I was in the first bed and he was in the

top bunk but my sister had to share the bunk bed with a single man,

like she on the lower and he was on the higher. This man was a nice

man and during the daytime he would leave the room to let us have some

privacy. But during the night he had to sleep somewhere and it was really,

really, very, very uncomfortable for us to be in that situation, especially

for my sister. (Teenage girl)

Detainees were moved

from one section of the camp to another, sometimes more than once. They

were issued with bed linen and blankets when they arrived and were expected

to take these with them when they were moved from room to room. If they

did not, because they did not know they had to or they could not carry

them or they forgot them, then they were not given replacement linen and


When we arrived

in Australia it was winter and it was too cold. They give for us blanket,

sheet everything - everyone take for their own. At the first camp I

cannot take my pillow or everything. When we came to the [next] camp

I have not anything and I ask the policeman, "Please give me. I

left my pillow, everything." And he said, "It is up to you.

You left it." And one man, old man 42, 45 years old, he left the

camp and one old blanket and he gave it to me saying, "I know you

have nothing" … At the beginning they give to us. The people

… who are not sick, they take for their own, put it in the plastic

and put it on their shoulder and bring with them. I can't carry, it

is too heavy. I can't carry my bag. I put my bag in place of my pillow.

I use on my bed. (Unaccompanied teenage boy)

The children interviewed

spoke about the insufficient numbers of toilets and showers and the difficulties

this caused them. The children felt that this situation was especially

serious at the temporary facility on Christmas Island.

[T]here wasn't many

bathroom - just two for women and two for men for 1000 people. And we

had to wait and stay in a line to go to the bathroom. The women would

get up at 4am to go to the bathroom. They were saying, "We have to

go first. We don't like waiting in the line." There was no hot water,

just cold water. (Teenage girl)

It was reported by

the children that the numbers of toilets and showers at Curtin were a

problem. People had to queue for significant periods to use the toilets

and showers, causing both discontent in the difficult conditions and increasing

tensions among detainees, especially when different groups had different

access to the facilities.

The bathrooms were

good. Most of the Brolga camp had too many toilets and bathrooms. Everything

was good. But all Iraqi people are here and Iranian people. When they

were not fighting they were mixed up with each other. So they separated

the people and put the Afghani here. Then there [were] four toilets

for 500 people, two clothes washing [machines], four showers for 500

people. The Iraqi people they have a lot and most of the time we go

there. Most of the time we went there but the police said, "Don't

do that. Don't go there." (Teenage girl)

People had to line

up for showers and toilets. When we played the soil was red and when

the rain was coming. We all were lining up. Sometimes there was fighting,

not by hand but by arguing. (How long did you have to queue for a shower?)

10, 15, 20 minutes - it depends. Sometimes half an hour. (Unaccompanied

teenage boy)

The closed camp at

Port Hedland was also singled out for comment about the need to queue

for considerable periods.

One bathroom and

if you wanted to go to the toilet you have to wait … one or two

hours, line up. (Unaccompanied teenage boy)

Food and drink

Most of the children's

comments about food and drink were clear and unequivocal. They expressed

dissatisfaction with both the quantity and the quality of the food. Detainees

often complain bitterly about the food and so the interviewed children's

comments were not extraordinary. There were, however, a few more positive


[T]he food was

very bad, not good to eat, sometimes cold, frozen. We had seen it before

- it was chicken and rice … Most of the food was mixed. It was

not halal. We had to eat what there was there. (Teenage girl)

Food first month

was good and, after that, I did not know whether we eat halal. They

said it was but who knows … First month enough, but after that

hungry … We had no other choice but to eat that awful food. Often

it was not cooked properly or overcooked ... If for any reason we missed

the period to eat, we went hungry. And the quality of food was rubbish

because we did not have money or access to any other food … There

were people from everywhere, Africa, Sri Lanka, Iraq and Iran - common

food for everyone.

(Unaccompanied teenage boy)

In Curtin I sometimes

did not eat food. I give it to my mum cause it was yuck. They give us

like kangaroo food, something like that … I hated some. We got

vegetables only for the children. I gave them to my mum as hate vegetables.

Fish was only for the children …Sometimes I got the baby food.

If children not eat breakfast they were hungry. We hide bread for the

children. (Boy under 10 years and his mother)

We spent two weeks

in the closed camp and the food was OK. The intermediate camp, we spent

two weeks and it was OK. Detention was OK there. But the third camp

the food was awful. Day by day the quality and the quantity was changing

and it was really really bad. (Teenage boy)

[The food] was

awful. It was not enough and not good. Sometimes there was food and

sometimes not. There was unfair treatment as some people would get more

and some would not. Probably some people made friendships with the guards

and it was not the same for all of us. I never had a full stomach. There

were three meals but nothing in between, just survival. (Unaccompanied

teenage boy)

The food was good

but chicken every time. For Afghan people cooking rice, meat and vegetables

- the food was good and enough food - three times a day. Never hungry,

but we were not allowed to take out from the restaurant.

(Unaccompanied teenage boy)

Food in the closed

sections of the camp was generally said to be more limited and less appealing

than in the open areas.

In the closed camp

we usually were provided with food in a lunch box. We would queue and

we were given it and there was a room where we could eat it. In the

morning we had bread and jam. I do not know if it was halal food …

It depends on your stomach. If you were a big eater you did not have

enough food but for some people it was OK. (Teenage girl)

The biggest difficulty

in the camps was that the evening meal was served early in the evening

and only a light supper later in the evening. The long gap between dinner

and breakfast was very hard for younger children. Detainees were not permitted

to take food or drink from the eating area but the parents and family

members of young children took risks and endured humiliation to provide

for the children.

This family, they

had young children and some of them, they had to hide one or two pieces

of bread under their chador to give to the children later on when they

were hungry. And also some people were fasting even if it was not Ramadan

because especially for women they cannot always fast if they are travelling

or they have their period etc. So they had to keep some food aside for

that but it was very humiliating. Around 300 people were having lunch

or dinner in that room and as we were leaving the room a group of the

guards would tell us to show if we had any bread underneath. It was

very difficult for me. (Teenage girl)

Lack of access to

drink was remembered as especially problematic in dry, hot, desert areas.

At the night when

we wanted to go outside, the doors were locked and we could not go out.

And if we wanted a drink of cold water we had to leave our room and

walk so far for water. This was in a big container of water and it had

to last from the morning until the next day. People were putting their

hands in the water and it was so dirty and we could not drink that.

There were no taps, just water out of a container for 1000 people. It

was so difficult. (Teenage girl)


The children all

spoke of having little clothing and of the difficulty in obtaining more.

Some lost their clothes along the way. Some said their clothes had been

so dirty when they arrived in Australia that they threw them away. Others

said that clothing they had brought with them had been taken from them

and burned following their arrival. This was probably for health and quarantine

reasons. The children said the clothes thrown away or removed were not


All our clothes

were too dirty and chucked … we chucked them as they were dirty.

(Boy under 10 years and his mother)

We had no more

clothes when we arrived. I bring a lot of clothes with me but on Christmas

Island the police took me to somewhere and put my clothes in the rubbish.

(Unaccompanied teenage boy)

When we were in

the Christmas Island they threw away our clothes and said they would

give us clothes, socks and shoes and everything. But on Christmas Island

they just gave us a shirt and shorts, just for summer. We asked many

times for clothes and blankets and eventually after a lot of complaining

they gave us a new blanket but they took our old ones so it was not

enough to keep us warm. (Unaccompanied teenage boy)

Clothing could be

obtained in two ways. Clothes were available for purchase from the store

but detainees needed money for that and many did not have any.

We have to have

money to buy clothes but we didn't, even for shoes. But we didn't have

money so we made like this - like tissue and we cut and with needle

and thread from rugs make a shirt in the camp. (Boy under 10 years and

his mother)

Otherwise, the children

said, detainees could apply for clothes if and when they required them.

All the children expressed dissatisfaction with the system of providing

needed clothes.

When we were in

Curtin about three or four months, we said we need the clothes and have

no clothes. One day they give for us clothes, not new. We stay in line

in the sun for three hours. The officer lie to us, a very long line,

they laughed at us and closed the door and said, "Go, there are

no clothes". They laughed at us. "Look at these people fighting

for clothes and not new clothes." I am very angry. I have a headache,

3 hours in the sun. I come back home. Next week I come back. I get a

shirt, only shirt, and my friend gives us trouser for my son. (Boy under

10 years and his mother)

You must apply

for clothes, write your name, everything, and after that he call your

name and come straight. I put it two times and my name did not come

- most of the people, because Iranian people they live all this time

in the camp, and they are disappointed. Everything is not in the hands

of officers but in the hand of the Iranian people and they are enemy

with Afghani people. (Unaccompanied teenage boy)

They used to give

us poor quality slippers (thongs), especially for children as they were

running around. The family would have to ask again and again and there

was a big long queue and they had to stay in the queue for hours and

hours and then after that they would not be given a good response. (teenage


Personal effects

The children described

how personal effects were taken from them and how they and their families

had difficulty in obtaining such necessary personal items as soap, shampoo

and sanitary napkins.

Other things were

taken - flasks, torch taken away. And we were never given them again.

When we went to detention centre they checked our bags and all the things

not allowed to have they took and given the other things the next day

… We got nappies but we had to buy soap. Mum had some material

and she put it in plastic and made a nappy. (What about women and girls?

Did you get sanitary pads?) No. There was shampoo in the bathroom. The

shampoo they gave us I think was used in the washing machines too. One

soap for everything. (Teenage girl)


The right to an adequate

standard of living includes

  • shelter of a

    reasonable standard that is secure, safe and not over-crowded

  • hygienic washing

    and toilet facilities

  • adequate accessible

    water of good quality

  • food of good

    quality and sufficient quantity and that is nutritious.

Indeed the Department

of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs own Immigration

Detention Standards list a variety of standards that relate to the

adequacy of living standards, such as food (8.4), accommodation (7.7),

and clothing (8.2). These children's experiences demonstrate that these

standards are not being met, especially in terms of their age, the gender

appropriateness of the accommodation and the adequacy of food, clothing,

water and bathroom facilities.

The children's descriptions

of their living conditions give rise to the following concerns:

  • Their accommodation

    was generally over-crowded and, because of the mixing of adults and

    juveniles, unsafe. The conditions in closed detention were particularly

    problematic, for example, the lack of access to other areas of the camp,

    limited windows within the closed camps and the fact that the children

    were kept in segregation from family and friends.

  • The toilet and

    washing facilities were inadequate to the numbers of detainees and were

    unhygienic. In some sections of the camps they were difficult to access

    at night.

  • Water was not

    provided in sufficient quantities, and convenient locations, especially

    at night.

  • Food was of questionable

    quality and quantity and it was unreasonable to provide no food for

    the children between the early dinner time and breakfast next day.

Perhaps most striking

is the connection between the living conditions and the concept of imprisonment

felt by the children, a perception that goes beyond the mere physical

location and design of the facilities. The descriptions by the children

outline a system that is not meeting standards consistent with either

Australia's obligations internationally or its own standards. The treatment

raises serious concerns about the duty of care being exercised, especially

for unattached minors for whom Australia, via the Minister, has guardianship



The Commission recommends

that the Department of Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs

establish the following requirements for detention centre management;

1. Children should

not be detained in a segregated environment. They should be accommodated

with their families in family units with sufficient bedroom, kitchen,

bathroom, toilet and living space. They should be furnished with adequate

cupboards for clothes and personal effects.

2. Children without

families should be accommodated together appropriately in small units

with adult support. These units should also have sufficient bedroom,

kitchen, bathroom, toilet and living space. They should be furnished

with adequate cupboards for clothes and personal effects.

3. Children, especially

girls, should not be accommodated in environments that would be culturally

inappropriate in their own country.

4. Children should

have easy access to washing and toilet facilities, as a component of

their accommodation, without the need to queue for significant periods

of time.

5. Food and water

of adequate quantity and good quality should be available as required

by the children not the requirements of the centre.

6. The clothing

needs of detained children should be assessed regularly and children

provided with additional clothing as and when required by the children.



The Convention

on the Rights of the Child

The Convention on

the Rights of the Child sets out both the purposes of education and the

content of the right to education. Article 29(a) provides that "the

education of the child shall be directed to … [t]he development of

the child's personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to

their fullest potential". Article 28 provides

1. States Parties

recognise the right of the child to education, and with a view to achieving

this right progressively and on the basis of equal opportunity, they

shall, in particular:

(a) Make primary education compulsory and available free to all;

(b) Encourage the development of different forms of secondary education,

including general and vocational education, make them available and

accessible to every child, and take appropriate measures such as the

introduction of free education and offering financial assistance in

case of need;

(c) Make higher education accessible to all on the basis of capacity

by every appropriate means;

(d) Make educational and vocational information and guidance available

and accessible to all children;

(e) Take measures to encourage regular attendance at schools and the

reduction of drop-out rates.

The children's


The children interviewed

described the extent and nature of the education they received or made

available in the detention centres. As in all other respects the situation

was worst in the closed camp environment. The children reported that virtually

no education was provided there.

Just two days one

teacher came to teach in two and a half months. (Unaccompanied teenage


The children regarded

the situation in the open camp environment as little better. Some children

received only one hour of education once or twice a week. Most received

only English lessons of a very rudimentary kind, in large classes made

up of children and young people across a very wide age range. Often the

teachers would be other detainees who had some limited English. The children

were grateful for the English they had learned and for the care shown

them by their teachers.

At the week we

had two days to go to school. We went to the class. When I arrived in

Australia I did not speak English. They speak English and I did not

understand what they said and the lady that looked after us, everyone

weekday, and she asked how school does and she became angry and upset

… she was very helpful. I draw a flower for her and I give to her

… One man, a friend, he is teaching English too. He was a teacher

in Afghanistan and learning English and speaks English very well …

The teacher was playing with the girls and I say, "Please, we are

coming to learn and you must teach us as I cannot understand how I can

say to you" … We just spend the time there but not teaching

… I was writing in my room all the time. She gave to me paper and

pencil and she said, "You must learn English here. When you get

out of the camp all the people speak English. If you do not speak English

it will be hard for you." (Unaccompanied teenage boy)

Our teacher [taught

us] for one hour. Another teacher was good, some were bad and some were

good … They give us big paper to write on it. Pencils … Some

officers let us one hour but a teacher would keep us for two hours.

I used to be bad at Curtin but I speak English now … The teacher

learnt us. (Boy under 10 years and his mother)

There was no education,

just learn English lessons with one teacher for thirty students and

different age groups, 5 to 20 years … We had no computers. We had

pens and exercise books. We just copied from difficult books, some books

like dictionaries, just copying, then put in the rubbish bin. No easy

story books, just dictionaries. Not learning English, just copying and

copying. We were like a printer! (Teenage girl)

On other occasions,

however, the children reported more frequent classes but the quality of

the education offered appears to have been of a very low standard and

the circumstances made teaching and learning very difficult.

I would have school

from nine to eleven with children my age and younger than me, nine years

and ten years, and we would start at ABC. Then we would have lunch and

then afternoon school from three to five … At the beginning it

was basic stuff, ABC, write something on the board and write it down

and use the dictionary and find the meanings of words. That was the

way that we learnt.(Unaccompanied teenage boy)

We went but did

not learn anything because we were all together, 10 years to 20 years,

all together. (Teenage girl)

In the closed camp

there was nothing and in the free camp the room was full so I did not

learn anything. (Unaccompanied teenage boy)

It was not really

a school. There was no maths, just English, and I could not learn as

it was only an hour. There were around eight computers and there were

times when my age group could go. We had a teacher. She was good to

us and she told us she was a refugee herself. She told us she was a

little child when she came and that made us feel good. (Teenage boy)

The reported teaching

methods were very basic, with little available to the teachers and students

other than boards and paper. In general, English language was the only

curriculum taught. Only one of the children had an opportunity to go out

of the camp on excursions. In Australian schools excursions are seen as

an ordinary and essential part of the learning process.

[We left the camp]

twice, once to take photos - about half an hour and it was good to see

all this green around us and the second time they took us swimming for

an hour - an hour from the camp. They would say we will take you swimming

and then they would told us no. I could not believe the time they took

us because they had lied so much before. (Unaccompanied teenage boy)

The teacher write

something on the board and the students know or understand it. Because

all the students all together, one student can speak and write well

but I was not able to speak English so I just sitting and looking …

Some maths and some geography … We did not have much geography

- just told that Australia was a big big island continent. (Unaccompanied

teenage boy)

The camp situation

itself made learning very difficult for the children. Some children were

so distressed in the camp that education was impossible for them.

I went one hour.

In one month I went eight or nine days. There was one morning class

from 8 to 11 and then in the afternoon from 2 to 4 but I was not able

to attend the morning school. This was because we had two adults in

our room and they would play cards until 2 or 3 in the morning and I

could not get enough sleep. I would often fall asleep in the morning.

(Unaccompanied teenage boy) was so distressed and very sad and could

not concentrate at all. I went three times. (Unaccompanied teenage boy)


The children's descriptions

of the educational opportunities provided to them demonstrate a standard

of education well below that required by the Convention on the Rights

of the Child. Further, the descriptions indicate the standard of education

is not consistent with that required by the government's own Immigration

Detention Standards, relating to education generally (4.4) and specifically

for children (9.4.1). The amount of time allocated to each student was

minimal - at most four hours a day but commonly one hour twice a week.

The children were exposed to little or no curriculum other than English

language, and the class sizes, mixed skill levels and age ranges of students

were inappropriate to the effective teaching of English as a second or

other language.

In relation to the

Convention on the Rights of the Child the education offered did

not promote "the development of the child's personality, talents

and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential" (article

29). Primary education was not compulsory and was not available to all

children in any meaningful sense. It did not meet requirements to provide

secondary, vocational or further educational opportunities.

The reported educational

standards in the camps are far below those in Australian schools, denying

child detainees equality of opportunity in education, on the basis of

their status as asylum seekers. This violates not only article 28 of the

Convention but also article 2, which prohibits discrimination on the basis

of status. The provision of education in the camps does not meet the standard

of education received by the general Australian community and is in stark

contrast to the standards that the Australian Government recently committed

to meeting as part of the May 2002 UN General Assembly Special Session

for Children.

It is important to

recognise that children and young people are at a sensitive developmental

stage for learning and should have opportunities for educational development

during this period.

The benefits of education

for children and young people residing in the detention centres, in terms

of ongoing learning and developing their abilities are obvious. Schools

would also provide the children and young people with a constructive activity

to fill in their days, a sense of hope for their future in Australia,

opportunities to feel achievement and alleviate boredom during their time

in detention.


The Commission recommends

that the Department of Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs

establish the following requirements for detention centre management;

7. Child detainees

should receive general comprehensive education comparable to that provided

to other children in Australia. During the initial phase of education

the focus should be on learning English to prepare the children for

broader educational participation, though this should also include other

key learning areas such as health and human movement. The English classes

should be as intensive as appropriate to each child, taking account

of his or her age, maturity, emotional readiness and capacity to learn.

8. No later than

two weeks after arrival each child should begin to attend a nearby school

outside the camp. The child should be located in a class appropriate

to his or her age, maturity, capacity and prior educational attainment.

He or she should study the standard applicable Australian curriculum.

Although detention centres are located in remote areas all have general

schools in the immediate vicinity of the camp except for Curtin where

the nearest school is a half hour drive away.

9. Local schools

receive the necessary additional resources to support the participation

and learning of child detainees, including in relation to learning English

and coping with classes conducted in English.

10. Children and

young people over the age of 15 years should have access to technical

education and training. They should be informed about education, training

and employment opportunities available in Australia and prepared to

take up these opportunities if and when granted a visa.



The Convention

on the Rights of the Child

The Convention

on the Rights of the Child article 24.1 provides

States Parties

recognize the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable

standard of health and to facilities for the treatment of illness and

rehabilitation of health. States Parties shall strive to ensure that

no child is deprived of his or her right of access to such health care


The Convention, in

article 39, also provides

States Parties

shall take all appropriate measures to promote physical and psychological

recovery and social reintegration of a child victim of: any form of

neglect, exploitation, or abuse; torture or any other form of cruel,

inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; or armed conflicts. Such

recovery and reintegration shall take place in an environment which

fosters the health, self-respect and dignity of the child.

The children's


The children often

arrived at the camps with serious illnesses as a result of the difficult

travel to Australia or their experiences before leaving their countries

of origin.

My foot was very

painful, because when I came to Australia my boat was very wet. Some

people had their own blankets and they did not get too wet. I was like

this and people said he was dead. If I run, then at the night I can't

sleep and I have back pain too. I have seen a doctor two times but they

give a tablet and it is not better. (Unaccompanied teenage boy)

When we arrived,

the lady was very helpful. She was the nurse there and this was when

I was sick. When we check out of the boat the policeman tell her. Interpreter

said, "Who is sick?" and all the people said "He is sick.

He is sick." And the nurse come and took me and take my blood pressure

and give me injection. In the bus my head was on her legs. She was very

helpful. Good things I remember, the lady at the beginning she was helpful

and very kind and working with me and I was so happy with her. (Unaccompanied

teenage boy)

Conditions in the

camps and the harshness of the desert locations also caused illness and


Mum got so red

and everywhere there were bites and bugs and things like that. (Boy

under 10 years and his mother)

Each of the children

interviewed related an account of inadequate access to health care and

medical treatment. They said that the camps had medical staff on site

but treatment was limited and often unhelpful,

"no doctors,

just nurses" (Teenage girl)

but not good -

one nurse, woman, very bad. She did not like us, did not like refugees.

She very bad, not to speak with us. (Boy under 10 years and his mother)

The children often

found it difficult to obtain medical assistance. There were no medical

staff located permanently in the closed camp. In the open camp the medical

staff were located in an area separately fenced and gated from the general

area of the camp and it was difficult to pass through the fence to seek

medical attention.

In the closed camp

the doctor would come and check on us about twice or three times a week.

But in the free camp, if we had a problem, we could not go to the doctor.

We had to wait. (Unaccompanied teenage boy)

Each said that the

principal medical advice given was to drink more water and the only medication

prescribed was panadol. This is consistent with what immigration detainees

have said for the last decade.

When we were in

the detention centre and someone was sick, headache or sick, they would

say, "Just drink water". The doctor said, "Drink water,

three or four cups, and, if you don't get better, just drink more".

My sister has a problem with her eyes. She said her eyes were so painful

and she went to the doctor who said, "You just have to drink water".

Now we come to Sydney and the doctor says she has a problem in her eyes

… There was a man who had a leg broken and he went to say his leg

was broken and they said, "Just use some cream to make it better

and drink water". No medicine - we do not know of any medicine

being given, not even panadol (teenage girl)

I had a tooth pain

and they say just drink water. If the person had eye problem, drink

water. Stomach problem, drink water. If you drink water 10 glasses,

then drink 11. If we drink 11, then drink 12, 13. All the people sick,

then drink water - nothing else. (Unaccompanied teenage boy)

I think the same

treatment as everyone - water. Once I had a stomach ache and I was prescribed

panadol and a few times headaches and general body pain and whenever

I approached the medical staff I was told to drink water.

(Unaccompanied teenage boy)

I have got a kidney

problem in both kidneys and I suffered a lot with that in the camp.

I was having this pain and they were telling me to drink water. Any

sickness or any pain we were told to drink water. Very little painkillers.

Altogether five or six times I was ill. My older brother lobbied a lot

for me to be sent to a doctor. One night I was very sick and he felt

I should see a doctor but they gave me two panadol and told me to drink

water. (Unaccompanied teenage boy)

There was a particular

concern at the lack of treatment for toothache. Because of poor conditions

and lack of dental care in countries of origin many children arrive with

advanced tooth decay. When treatment was provided, it was usually extraction

rather than (more expensive) treatment that repaired the tooth.

when we have teeth

[ache], not fix it for us" (Boy under 10 years and his mother)

I was having a

teeth pain. No one helped me for eight days. After eight days the doctor

came to take it out. He took it out. (Unaccompanied teenage boy)

I had a very bad

toothache and all they said was drink water. So I could not stand it

any more and said just take it out and they said "No, no, no you

are only young - you can just drink water". I had to do my traditional

healing and grabbed an onion and squeeze it and drop the juice on the

tissue and put it in my mouth. It was a little better. (Unaccompanied

teenage boy)

The children also

recounted experiences of serious misdiagnosis that caused great distress

and of non-treatment of serious illnesses. One account was especially


We experienced

a lot of difficulty and bad times because of the mystery of my brother's

physical problem. We knew that it was kidney problem and he needed treatment

and I tried a few times to get some medical attention for him …

I had to ask if they could at least send him to a doctor, because what

they were giving him was some panadol and just drink water. Eventually

I got him to a doctor … The doctor used a telephone interpreter

and the interpreter, very simply as though he was telling me to drink

water, told me that my brother had [a terminal disease]. He told me

without any kind of support or explanation. I was really shocked and

asked him what was going to happen and he asked me if I could do anything

in these circumstances. I said, "What can I do? I am in prison."

So I left it with him. My brother heard what he said and was very distressed

and kept saying that he would die … After my brother was diagnosed

we stayed another 27 days in the camp and during this period every now

and then they would come and ask for my brother by his number and he

was told to drink a glass of water. And then he had a really bad pain

from his kidney and they gave him pain killer and some sleeping tablets

on one occasion because he could not sleep with the pain. But nothing

specific for [the terminal disease]. (Unaccompanied teenage boy)

Some months after

this boy and his brother were released, further tests were done and the

children were told that the original diagnosis was wrong. The younger

brother had a kidney disease, not a terminal illness.

Many of the children

arrived at the camp traumatised from their experiences and, in the case

of those without families, from their separation. The brother of the boy

wrongly diagnosed, for example, said

At that time I

had pressure from every angle, from leaving my family, concern about

my family, the long, long journey, all these interviews and being in

a very uncertain situation in a very traumatic environment and on top

of that my brother was diagnosed with a fatal disease. I felt very concerned

for him because he was going to die and I also felt responsible for

him as I was the older one. I tried to keep my feelings inside of me

and be a support person for him and calm him down and this put me in

difficult circumstances and something we did not need on top of everything

else. (Unaccompanied teenage boy)

None of the children

indicated that he or she had received specialist attention for trauma.


The accounts given

by the children are very similar. Some medical staff were helpful and

sympathetic and some were not. This is inevitable in any system but probably

especially so in one as closed as the immigration detention system in

which persons presenting with illness have no choice as to whom to see,

when and for what treatment.

However, the experiences

in relation to medical care were unsatisfactory without exception. At

no point can it be said that these children enjoyed "the highest

attainable standard of health and … facilities for the treatment

of illness and rehabilitation of health" (article 24.1). Further

the level of medical care described is clearly in breach of the government's

own standards (section 8.3) as the service provision is neither at a "necessary"

or a "reasonable" level.

Perhaps most damning

in relation to health care is the seeming absence of any psychological

care. None of the children interviewed indicated that he or she had received

any assistance "to promote physical and psychological recovery and

social reintegration" (article 39) in relation to the trauma experienced

in his or her country of origin and during the travel to Australia. Far

from being "an environment which fosters the health, self-respect

and dignity of the child" the detention camps appear to exacerbate

the trauma experienced by the children increasingly damaging their children's



The Commission recommends

that the Department of Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs

establish the following requirements for detention centre management;

11. Child detainees

should have access to all health and medical services (inclusive of dental

care) they require to enable them to enjoy the highest attainable standard

of health. Their illnesses should be diagnosed with the utmost care and

treated as they would be treated within the general Australian community.

Children who cannot receive necessary treatment or respond appropriately

to treatment within the detention environment should be released without

delay for that purpose

12. Early treatment

should be provided for children and their families experiencing trauma

as a result of their experiences. Special attention should be paid to

the psychological needs of children separated from their families.



The Convention

on the Rights of the Child

Article 31 of the

Convention provides

1. States Parties

recognise the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play

and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and

to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.

2. States Parties shall respect and promote the right of the child to

participate fully in cultural and artistic life and shall encourage

the provision of appropriate and equal opportunities for cultural, artistic,

recreational and leisure activity.

These provisions

recognise the importance of play, recreation and cultural activity to

"[t]he development of the child's personality, talents and mental

and physical abilities to their fullest potential" (article 29(a)).

Children unable to play can become withdrawn and isolated, leading to

serious mental illness.

The children's


All the children

interviewed described the boredom of life in the camps. This was especially

acute in the closed camp where detainees, including the children, were

locked in-doors except for an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon.

For just one hour

in the morning we come out of the room to see the sky and one hour in

the afternoon. And then the doors closed, locked in. I could visit friends

in other rooms but not go outside … We had one small TV for 17

or 18 people … for one or two hours, we have ball to play …

but very small place to play and, if we kicked the ball out, we ask

the officers, "Could we have the ball please?" and they would

say, "No. Why did you kick the ball out?" (Unaccompanied teenage


Even in the open

camp the children had few facilities for play, recreation and sport -

few toys and little sporting equipment. There was little cultural activity,

certainly none provided by outside individuals or organisations.

The children were

always fighting because of the playground and because of the toys, as

there were very little toys. [There was] a small playground and there

were so little toys and sand - not grassy. When they wanted to go play

they were always fighting. No good grounds. Fighting over small cars

… When you wanted to borrow the toys you had a card in the detention

centre and when you going to dinner you had to show your card and give

your name and when you went to borrow a toy you had to give that card

for the toy. If you lose it you have to wash the toilet to pay for it.

(Teenage girl)

Some of the parents

or the children themselves improvised playthings, but at times those using

them were placed in some danger of injury.

One day we made

a swing. Yes, it nearly cut my finger off - yah yah! The swings weren't

dangerous. We made them. There was a little and a big one, like a ship,

like a pirate ship. Dad made it. When we first came there was just one

swing and everybody fight about it. They shouted, "Heh! Come down,

you cheeky boy" and I say, "I got it first". So there

was one swing and then we had three swings. My friend Wahid and he had

a sister and they made one for his sister and one for his brother and

one for me. One day my friend's cousin who pushed us, the thingy got

ripped and nearly chopped my finger off. I was so lucky. It was this

close. (Boy under 10 and his mother)

Television sets were

provided by the camp managers but the few sets were placed in large viewing

areas and it was difficult for children to obtain access to them to watch

programs suitable to their age and of interest to them.

In the free camp

[the TV] was in a room where we could watch it but I was not very interested

as I had never seen TV before in my life. Too big halls with one for

women and one for men - no chairs so we had to sit on the floor. (Unaccompanied

teenage boy)

The children had

few, if any, opportunities for excursions outside the camp environment.

We were never allowed

to go out. Better to take us out for sightseeing, better than just being

imprisoned. It was not only that they did not take us. They would lie

to us. They would say, "We will take you swimming" and then

they would told us no. I could not believe the time they took us because

they had lied so much before. (Unaccompanied teenage boy)

Only one of the children

interviewed said he had left the camp for reasons other than a medical


Once to take photos

- about half an hour. And it was good to see all this green around us.

And the second time they took us swimming for an hour, an hour from

the camp. (Unaccompanied teenage boy)

All that remained

for the children to do, then, was play sport. Yet they said that there

was little sporting equipment and that no sporting events were organised

by the camp staff.

We played soccer,

basketball and volleyball. No net for volleyball. A ground but no hoop

[for basketball]. (Unaccompanied teenage boy)

Volleyball and

football. There was a basketball too but I did not know how to play

that. Also tennis I think. (Was there a basketball hoop there?) There

was. (Was there a net for the volleyball game)? No, it was not there

and we asked and they gave us one. (Unaccompanied teenage boy)

You can play basketball

or soccer - everything you like. You organise it yourself. We had Iraqi

teams and Iranian teams and Afghani teams and I played … I play

badminton. I like to play football but I can't play it. (Unaccompanied

teenage boy)

I did not play

sport in the beginning but when the other boys left they brought us

a ball and I played with some others in the closed camp. (Were there

any other games you could play?) No. (So what did you do all day?) I

was wandering around and then inside sleeping. It was very boring. (Unaccompanied

teenage boy)

There was a kind

of football but the ground was awful. If you fell down you really hurt

yourself. So we did not do that too much. There was a tennis court but

I did not know that game. (Teenage boy)


The children's accounts

make it clear that the standard, quality and quantity of the play and

sporting equipment provided for the children were inadequate for the numbers

of child detainees and did not take account of the range of their ages.

There were too few toys for the younger children. The sporting equipment

was basic at best and often less than necessary for games. There was no

indication of any cultural activity organised by the camp managers. The

failure to take children on excursions outside the camps is especially

troubling. Access to play, recreation and cultural activity is a necessary

part of children's development and a key component of education and learning.

These child detainees do not receive opportunities for this that is sufficient

or appropriate.

Section 4.4 of the

Immigration Detention Standards refers to access to programs so

that detainees can utilise their time in a constructive and beneficial

manner, the descriptions by the children indicate this standard is not

being met and more alarmingly the absence of structured and facilitated

age appropriate recreation is adding to the levels of frustration and

tension within the camps.


The Commission recommends

that the Department of Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs

establish the following requirements for detention centre management;

13. An extensive

range of sporting and play equipment adequate for the numbers and appropriate

to the ages of child detainees should be provided to children in camps.

14. A structured

recreation and play program (facilitated by specially trained staff)

should be implemented to teach children how to use equipment, including

through sport instruction and training and are linked to children's


15. Cultural, recreational

and artistic opportunities and activities should be provided to child

detainees, including through visits by outside performers and educators

and through excursions outside the camp, at least for one full day a




The Convention

on the Rights of the Child

Articles 19.1 and

34 provide the right of all children to protection from abuse and neglect.

States Parties

shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational

measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence,

injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation,

including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s)

or any other person who has the care of the child. [9]

States Parties

undertake to protect the child from all forms of sexual exploitation

and sexual abuse. [10]

Article 20 entitles

children deprived of their families to special protection by the state.

A child temporarily

or permanently deprived of his or her family environment, or in whose

own best interests cannot be allowed to remain in that environment,

shall be entitled to special protection and assistance provided by the


The children's


The situation in

the camps and their location raised many protection issues in the interviews

with the children.

One common issue

was snakes. A number of the children referred to the presence of snakes

in and around the camp and their resultant fears.

There were so many

snakes. When I wanted to go to the toilet and I have to go to my mother's

room and to wake her. Then she come with me. There was girl bitten by

a snake so I scared to go by myself. The girl, they took her away and

then brought her back later. Under our room, some animal, I saw it and

shouted and screamed. Mother went to the officer and he came and said,

"Don't worry. He doesn't care about you." That night I could

not go to my room. (Teenage girl)

There were snakes,

big and little ones like cobras. Scary. My dad killed one. (Boy under

10 years and his mother)

None of the children

interviewed alleged that he or she personally was subjected to physical

or sexual abuse or exploitation. All, however, referred to the general

atmosphere in the camps as one of violence, conflict, threat and intimidation.

Most experienced this on a daily basis. Their comments indicated that

they felt unsafe and vulnerable because of it.

Some reported violence

or rough handling on the part of the camp guards and officials. Some thought

that the camp guards were armed with guns and were violent.

(What made you

feel unsafe? Because of the other people or the guards?) Uniformed officers

and fences and fighting among the people, shouting "We want to

be free!" … The guards made us feel scared. The soldiers that

came to check our rooms had guns in their pocket. (But most of the staff

did not have guns?) Yes, they do. (Teenage girl)

The situation engendered

in one very young child grave fears for his physical safety from camp


The boss sometimes

in morning, he kicks the door in and if he sees you he puts you in jail.

At night when we sleep the officer comes inside, with his foot kicks

the door, and he came inside and he have a torch and see we in the room

or not … The worst thing was one day they tried to make a fence

and tried to shut it on us and lock us in so we could not go out. In

morning the officers come and see your card and they say, "What

number are you?" Everybody and they can kill you or that. They

come and check us … (When you were in Curtin, did you feel safe?)

No … every time he knocked down the door and bring torches, he

picks out a few if you open your eyes, he grabs you and he takes you

and he hits you and you come back like One am. He even takes us and

our bags. He kicks them. He got them and hides them somewhere. One day,

one day, my friend went down and there was everything of ours hanging

there. They hide them and laugh at us … (Was there anything else?)

Some of them bring guns, no, not guns, sticks. (Boy under 10 years and

his mother)

This child also was

a witness to a particularly violent incident during a confrontation between

camp officials and detainees who attempted to walk out of the camp.

The worse thing

was they hit us, everybody, and some of us cried! The first person who

got hit - whack - cried, hit with a stick. (Do you know why he got hit?)

Because he jumped on the officer. And someone else's head was bleeding.

I was scared. We did not bother them. We just tried to walk on the road

but they bothered us … Men broke the fence and they got some people

like the armies and they got sticks and hit us … (Was it just the

men who were hit when they tried to fight?) Yes, my father was hit but

not hurt. They went whack, whack, whack, whack. (How many times was

your father hit?) Hit on the back of the head with a stick, a baton.

(Boy under 10 years and his mother)

Another child spoke

of the violence he had witnessed, the actions of the guards and the effect

on him.

I witnessed demonstrations

and strikes in the camp. There were people there who had been there

for years … It was quite a violent action because these people

in the jail were screaming and yelling and self harming themselves by

either beating or bashing or cutting themselves. Then the guards would

interfere and usually the guard had a stick or electric thing. We would

hear all this screaming and yelling and then later on they would be

quiet because of the action used against them. It was quite frightening

to see and hear this thing. Even in that free camp once they demonstrated

and, whenever such happened, the guards came in and interfered with

us, a violent action with this electric stick or something to break

up the demonstration. It was not all the time but, if something was

happening, they would interfere. I could not stand it anymore and went

to my room and sat by myself. I could not watch it. (Teenage boy)

Other children spoke

about tension and anxiety as an ordinary state of affairs, arising from

the everyday incidents of camp life.

The detention centre

had one TV for the whole of the camp of 1000 people. There was always

fighting about the TV. Some people wanted to watch a movie and the men

wanted to watch soccer. When I was in the detention centre, about three

times I saw the men were fighting and hitting us because of the TV or

the children were fighting because of the playground or the toys. (Teenage


(Did you see any

violence while you were there?) Nearly every second day. Just fighting,

because everybody was losing their temper, fighting over small things

like TV or a ball. (Unaccompanied teenage boy)

There were detainees

from other nationalities and detainees that they have left there for

years, like three years, and they were just mad being in detention for

three years. So every now and then there would be fighting between detainees

and the guards. Instead of just separating them in a peaceful kind of

way, they usually used a baton and bashed them and then take them away.

Sometimes if there was an argument the guards would just watch until

it reached a point where an arm was broken or a nose bleeding or something

really serious had happened. Then they would take action. (Unaccompanied

teenage boy)

One night we went

to restaurant to eat something and one lady, she is from Iraq, she start

fighting with the police. All the Iraqi people come to help her and

hit the police and everything was broken, the plates, everything. (Unaccompanied

teenage boy)

There was violent

fighting between Afghanis and Iraqis. [The guards] thought it was their

own business and they did not do anything. (Unaccompanied teenage boy)

At the beginning

it was OK but after a while there was fighting between Afghan and Iraqi

detainees, violence because someone was injured in their eyes and bruising

on their face. There was an Iman giving the prayer and he tried to negotiate

between them all. But it did not work and after that it was tense between

Afghans and Iraqis. But they sent apologies to each other and it changed.

(Teenage boy)

Some were witnesses

to acts of deliberate self harm by detainees.

A man from Iraq

had been in the detention centre for one year and half and he was crying,

"I want to go out". He put boiling water over himself and

then he died. (Teenage girl)

Two detainees attempted

suicide. They took some pills and taken to the hospital. A few detainees

climbed trees. One of the detainees in the basketball court took a razor

and wanted to cut himself in the basketball court, cut shis neck. He

wanted to commit suicide. He was taken away and placed in jail for three

days. He was saying that he did not want to come to Australia because

he found the detention situation worse than being back in his own country.

He wanted to go back. (What happened to him?) He stayed here. Until

the time that we were released he was still in detention. They were

two brothers and one was released and one wasn't. Then he became very

distressed and tried to kill himself. (Unaccompanied teenage boy)

A person wanted

to cut himself in the basketball court and he was screaming and saying

he would do it and the guard came and he was taken into a small room

and left there. I saw it as I left the mosque. He was trying to cut

himself in the neck. (Unaccompanied teenage boy)

One child expressed

her continuing concern about what had happened to a detainee, who was

apparently a spokesperson for some of the detainees, who had been injured

in one incident in a camp.

After that incident

happened, DIMA took [him] to give him medical attention and since then

we have never heard from him and I keep wondering if he is alive or

still in detention or been prosecuted. (Teenage girl)

Other children also

spoke about the sudden absence of other detainees and their fears for

their safety.

One of my other

bad memories from the closed camp, someone would come and call a number

without any explanation and that person would be taken and we did not

know what was going to happen to that person and later we would find

out that that person got a visa or probably deported. It was really

uncomfortable feeling, to be in that situation. Their number was called

and we did not know what had happened to them. (Unaccompanied teenage


Of course some of

the children did not feel so threatened and commented on the level of

harmony among the different groups living together in a very confined

space for long periods. So, for example, although there is inherent risk

in requiring children to share bedrooms with adults not members of their

own family, the children expressed confidence in the adults.

(When in the room

with seven adults, did you feel safe with them?) … I felt safe.

They were people I had travelled with all the way. They were Afghans

from the boat. I did not have problem with any detainees. (Unaccompanied

teenage boy)

Another boy spoke

positively about the care and concern he had experienced from some of

the guards.

Some of them were

really good and, if we asked for something, they would do it for us.

Some of them did not like us. One of my good experiences with a guard.

We were rejected once for our visa on the basis that they said we were

not Afghans. That lady cried for me and said, "Why did they make

that decision?" Not all of them were bad. (Unaccompanied teenage


However, the effects

of living amid regular violence were evident.

Watching and witnessing

all this violence is very distressing and I still have not got over it.

(Teenage girl)

The youngest child

interviewed revealed the depth of fear and despair in the relationship

between camp officials and detainees. He had said earlier in the interview

that detainees who complained were "put in jail" until they

said they were happy.

(If you were a

magic person and had three magic wishes, what would you do with these

wishes to change Curtin to make it better for people like you?) I see

[a camp manager] come and I say, "Abracadabra" and whack.

And he says, "Ow!" And he would get tiny. My hand gets big

and he is like a tiny ant. Then I say, "You happy?" and he

says, '"No". And then I make my second wish. I put an ant

jail and chuck him in there for five weeks and, when the five weeks

come, I ask, "Are you happy?" "No." Then the last

wish. I say, "Are you happy? Are you happy?" And make him

like a teeny tiny and squash him like an ant. And then he says, "Yes,

I am happy, just make me big." I say, "No, in your dreams".

And then I make the officers get hold of the man and he is then squashed.

(Boy under 10 years and his mother)


Detention of children

of itself gives rise to significant child protection issues. Confining

children to camps in remote locations for periods of months or even years

is child abuse, both physical and emotional. Any parent who did this would

be likely to be charged with a criminal offence. This submission, however,

is directed not to the fact of detention but to children's experiences

in detention.

The physical safety

of the children in these locations is the first issue of concern. The

children spoke about the presence of snakes and their resulting fear.

Australian children in remote areas, both indigenous and non-indigenous,

encounter snakes and other potentially dangerous animals and situations.

But they are accustomed to the dangers and are taught how to deal with

them. Child asylum seekers come from very different physical environments

and cannot be expected to have the knowledge and skills to avoid the dangers

of the camp locations. Indeed most Australian city children would be in

the same position. This is a safety concern.

Living in an atmosphere

of regular violence is far more serious because it is more immediate and

more clearly harmful to the children. Traumatised by violence in their

countries of origin they come to Australia to escape it. But the camps

as they describe them are places in which violence is endemic, an everyday

occurrence. It is an inevitable product of the forced cohabitation of

large numbers of distressed, insecure people in a confined space in an

extreme environment. The children's accounts of their lives in the camps

describe an atmosphere laden with violence, the potential of violence

and the threat of violence. The effects of these conditions on the children

themselves are evident in their comments and have created an atmosphere

of fear. Fear is linked to a person's ability to recover from trauma and

indeed appears to add to trauma. The cumulative traumatising effects of

detention and violence are well documented in the submissions of the Australian

Psychological Society and the Alliance of Health Professionals concerned

about the Health of Asylum Seekers and their Children.

Another grave risk

arises from the mixing of children and adults. The Migration Act 1989

(Cth) requires that children and adults should not be detained together

because, among other things, of the risk of physical or sexual abuse of

the children by the adults. Yet the camps do not separate children and

their families from other adults, including large numbers of single young

men. In fact some of the children, male and female, said they had been

forced to share bedrooms with single men. In any context within Australian

domestic law, such as care and protection or justice, this is unacceptable.

Fortunately none

of the children interviewed indicated that he or she had been physically

or sexually abused. Their right, however, is not merely a right not to

be abused but a right to be protected and a right not to be placed in

a position of unacceptable risk, as is outlined in the United Nations

Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty and the

United Nations Minimum Standard Rules for the Administration of Juvenile


The situations outlined

by the children interviewed indicate that they were not properly or adequately

protected whilst in the camps.


The Commission recommends

that the Department of Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs

establish the following requirements for detention centre management;

16. Detention centres

should be required to meet same standards as residential services for

children in out of home care. Conditions in the camps should be monitored

regularly against these standards by an independent Agency familiar

with these standards such as, in NSW, the Office of the Children's Guardian.

Policies and procedures must stipulate that children should not be accommodated

with adults who are not members of their family or home community.

17. Detention centres

should adopt policies and procedures to identify and address potential

situations of conflict and violence. They should have staff trained

in conflict resolution on site at all times.

18. Children should

not be exposed to violence or the threat of violence. They should be

kept away from potentially violent situations. They should be assisted

to deal with any incidents of violence or self harm they might witness,

including through being provided with appropriate information about

the fate and well-being of those they see injured

19. As part of

induction and safety information children in the camps should be taught

about local environmental dangers and how to deal with them safely.



The Convention

on the Rights of the Child

One of the key principles

of the Convention on the Rights of the Child is the principle of

participation. The Convention provides in article 12.1

States Parties

shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views

the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the

child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with

the age and maturity of the child.

The children's


Participation requires

knowledge and understanding. The children interviewed said that they knew

little about what was happening to them and their application to remain

in Australia. They did not understand the process involved or its progress

or otherwise. They did not know the language.

Nothing was discussed

with us. There was no consultation … They gave us no explanation.

(Unaccompanied teenage boy)

They tell us nothing.

(Unaccompanied teenage boy)

We did not have

the language and we did not know the system. When we arrived two other

boats arrived with us. They were full of Afghan Hazaras and Iraqis.

So in those first weeks it was very difficult for us but we did not

know to say anything. (Teenage girl)

The children who

came without their families were interviewed by departmental officials.

The circumstances of these interviews have already been the subject of

comment. However, they were able to play some role in the determination

process. By contrast, children who accompanied their parents said that

they were not asked for their views.

Our mother and

father were interviewed, not us. Some of the other families, their children

were being interviewed but they were older than 16 years. (Did you understand

the process?) We understand from our parents. They want to make sure

they let us stay in Australia or not. (Teenage girl)

There was no process

for the children to express their views on the running of the detention

centres or on issues associated with the centres. The children interviewed

said that there was no committee or other process by which they could

deal with the camp management.

(Was there any

system for the young people there to have a committee to deal with the

camp administration?) No. (Unaccompanied teenage boy)


The children interviewed

clearly felt alienated from the camp management. There was no formal or

informal structure through which they could raise their concerns and express

their views. They had no control or even influence over their lives and

futures while in the camps. They could not "express [their] views

freely in all matters affecting [them], [their] views … being given

due weight in accordance with [their] age and maturity". Children's

participation is one of the central rights in the Convention on the

Rights of the Child. The Convention recognised for the first time

that child should be participants, subjects of action and not merely passive

objects. Yet the interviews give no indication that the camp managers

appreciated this and responded to it by providing mechanisms for the participation

of child detainees. Indeed whilst recognising dignity of detainees as

a key aspect of the Immigration Detention Standards there is no

mention of participation or being informed about the asylum seeking process,

a key component to being treated with dignity, especially for unattached



The Commission recommends

that the Department of Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs

establish the following requirements for detention centre management;

20. Immigration

officials should inform children of the procedures for determining applications

for protection and the progress of any application affecting them. Children

should be given opportunities to express their own views and to have

their views taken appropriately into account.

21. Interviews

with a child should be conducted in a manner appropriate to the age

and maturity of the child and with due care for and protection of the

child's rights (including the right to have an independent adult present

during the interview) and well-being.

22. Mechanisms

for formal and informal consultation with children should be developed

in each camp . This could include consultation about educational activities

in the centre or the determination of their refugee status. Children

should be encouraged to express their own views and their views should

be given due weight in accordance with Article 12 of the Convention

on the Rights of the Child which deals with the child's right to




The Convention

on the Rights of the Child

Under article 14

children are entitled to enjoy the same rights as adults in relation to

religious belief and practice, subject to "appropriate direction

and guidance" by their parents in accordance with article 5.

States Parties shall

respect the right of the child to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

The children's


The children interviewed

said that their right to religious belief and practice was generally respected

in the camps, but that there was difficulty in finding appropriate places

for prayer.

(Did you have a

prayer room?) No special room. We can pray outside the room or at the

basketball on Friday night we can do our prayer, under the tree. (Unaccompanied

teenage boy)

In a room with

three families, we did not have enough space to pray. There was just

a tiny space to put our prayer mats so we had to make a roster. One

person would pray and, when she had finished, another would pray. I

found it uncomfortable as I did not have my own space to pray. (Was

there any other space within the camp where the men could pray together

and the women pray together?) There was no such place in the closed

camp. The single man sharing a room with us went to another room to

pray. (Teenage girl)

We had to pray

in our room. The men would pray together on the sand but it was so hot

to do it. (Teenage girl)

One child commented

that there was nothing to do in the closed camp but pray.

In the closed camp

we had no choice but to pray all the time as we were locked in our rooms.

In the free camp there was a mosque. (Unaccompanied teenage boy)

Another child commented

that there were no visits arranged for Muslim religious leaders and that

this was difficult because of the remoteness of the camps and the small

Islamic populations in those areas.

Halal food was provided

in the camps for Muslim detainees, although one detainee wondered whether

the food was really halal and two did not believe it was.

Food first month

was good and after that I did not know whether we eat halal. They said

it was but who knows? (Unaccompanied teenage boy)

Most of the food

was mixed - it was not halal - we had to eat what there was there. (Teenage


Arrangements were

made for Muslim detainees to eat during the night during Ramadhan.

3am the restaurant

was open for the people who were fasting, 12 midnight and 3am for breakfast

… Just ordinary food but just dates extra … Same food we eat

every day but different hours. (Unaccompanied teenage boy)

The crowded conditions

in the camp and the mixed population of detainees made this difficult,


At midnight we

had to wake up to have something to eat and we had to be so quiet, turning

on light for a minute and eating quickly. (Teenage girl)


The children's accounts

do not indicate any restriction on freedom of belief but the arrangements

made for religious practice were inadequate. The camp managers appeared

to provide in some cases halal food for Muslim detainees and assisted

during Ramadhan in making food available during the night. However the

children described difficulties in finding appropriate space for prayer.

Nonetheless there was no evidence in their interviews of serious restriction

on the right of religious practice.


The Commission recommends

that the Department of Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs

establish the following requirements for detention centre management;

23. Appropriate

and sufficient space in each detention centre for prayer and other religious

activities should be provided in accordance with section 4.2 of the

Immigration Detention Standards.

24. Visits to child

detainees by outside religious personnel should be facilitated as desired

by the children for purposes of worship, instruction and support.



The Convention

on the Rights of the Child

Article 7.1 of the

Convention provides

The child shall

be registered immediately after birth and shall have the right from

birth to a name … and

Article 8.1 of the

Convention provides

State Parties undertake

to respect the right of the child to preserve his or her identity …

The children's


Some of the children

interviewed referred many times to being called by number rather than

by name while they were in detention.

Most of the police

did not know the name, so we have a number. The people all wrote our

card number and he read for us, "[my number], you come". The

first time the police came into my room and he told me, I was very scared.

(During the time in the camp did they call you by your name or always

a number?) By number. (All the time?) Yes. When you go to the DIMA and

they call the name, when the DIMA has any question or we have any problem,

they call [one number], [another number], [another number], like that.

We were outside. The police had a paper and he say, "[My number],

come inside. [Another number], come inside." (Unaccompanied teenage


Some of them would

speak with us in a very, very humiliating way to put us down. I felt

humiliated and I think many other detainees did too. They called us

by number, never by name … Then every now and then they would call

our number and we were not sure whether we had to go for something,

whether it was an interview or doctor appointment or something else.

They gave us no explanation … It was around 5 am in the morning

and that guard came and called my number and my brother's number. (Unaccompanied

teenage boy)

[T]hey would come

and ask for my brother by his number. (Unaccompanied teenage boy)


Child detainees are

human beings with names, as is their entitlement. The right to a name

is included in the Convention on the Rights of the Child in recognition

of the intimate link between a personal name and being human. The removal

or suppression of a person's name is a dehumanising act that contravenes

several articles of the Convention and the dignity of detainees as covered

in the Immigration Detention Standards.

The Commission acknowledges

that camp staff can have difficulty knowing and pronouncing unfamiliar

names. Also some names are very common in particular cultures and so there

can be more than one person with a particular name even in a small group.

However, the replacement of a name with a number and then the exclusive

or near exclusive use of the number rather than the name reinforce the

sense of loss of personhood and of personal control in detention. It is

especially unacceptable to treat children this way. They are vulnerable

and at great risk of emotional harm when detained. The loss of personal

identity by replacing names with numbers can be particularly harmful to



The Commission recommends

that the Department of Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs

establish the following requirement for detention centre management;

25. Children in

detention should always be called by name. Where there may be some confusion,

due, for example, to more than one child sharing the same name, then

a number or other personal identifier may also be used in conjunction

with the name. Numbers should never be used instead of or in the absence

of a name.



The Convention

on the Rights of the Child

The right to be treated

humanely, with respect for human dignity, is the most fundamental right

of persons in detention. It applies to all persons in detention, whether

justly or unjustly detained, whether detained following criminal conviction

or not, whether an adult or a child. Article 37 of the Convention on

the Rights of the Child provides in relation to children

(a) No child shall

be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment

or punishment …

(c) Every child deprived of liberty shall be treated with humanity and

respect for the inherent dignity of the human person, and in a manner

that takes into account the needs of persons of his or her age. In particular,

every child deprived of liberty shall be separated from adults unless

it is considered in the child's best interest not to do so …

The children's


The nature and context

of detention affects whether the detainees are treated with humanity and

respect for their inherent dignity. All of the situations already described

by the children, therefore, affect this question. The experience of detention

as a whole must be considered.

For the children

the camp was like a prison.

It was like a prison,

not detention. Whatever that we had to do, just tiny little things,

we had to ask for permission. We were not allowed to have it without

permission…….. In the first few weeks their attitude was good

to us, treating us as a human, but gradually it changed, day by day

and week by week …… We have had enough to deal with, with

the traumatic journey, leaving our families and not knowing about anything

that has happened to them and them not knowing anything about us. We

needed to be treated better than we were treated in detention camp.

(Unaccompanied teenage boy)

Physical accommodation

arrangements are especially relevant to whether detainees are treated

humanely. The comments of the interviewed children on their living conditions

have already been set out in this submission. Some aspects require further

consideration in relation to the humaneness of the treatment.

As already indicated

the situation in the closed camp was particularly disturbing. One child

said they were locked in the building except for one hour in the morning

and one hour in the afternoon.

For just one hour

in the morning we come out of the room to see the sky and one hour in

the afternoon. And then the doors closed. Locked in. (Unaccompanied teenage


Also disturbing was

the practice of accommodating children and adults who were not family

members in the same room. Several of the children said that they had been

accommodated in rooms with adult men in both the closed and the open camps.

One boy said that he was separated from the only family member he was

travelling with, a young cousin, and placed in a room with a number of

adult males.

I spent another

week sharing with some other detainees, three Iranians and four Afghans.

My cousin was taken to another room sharing with others. We were in

the same area but different rooms.[The others in the room] They were

adults 20-25 year old. . . .all adults. (Unaccompanied teenage boy)

A singe adult male

was also placed in a room with three families, including teenage girls.

We were sharing

a room with families plus a single man in that room too …My sister

had to share the bunk bed with a single man, like she on the lower and

he was on the higher. (Teenage girl)

Certainly all children

were within areas of the camps in which single adult males were also detained.

For one child, however,

the greater concern was loneliness and the fear that produced.

For three months

I was in the closed camp. All my friends were transferred from the closed

camp to the free camp and I was the only one left. I tried to find someone

who could translate to find out why I was the only one left. Nobody

could tell me and I was left by myself. (Were the other boys Afghani

too?) Yes, they left after two months and I stayed another month. Basically

I was left by myself for a week and no one else in the room. I was too

scared in the room and I could not sleep and I used to leave the light

on. It was too hot also. I was wandering around. After a week they brought

someone else who was 17 and then they took him away and then they brought

him back and he stayed for the remaining three weeks. I was so lonely

by myself for everybody else was adult and no one was speaking to me.

That was quite scary to be myself for a month without anyone to talk

with. (Unaccompanied teenage boy)

The children interviewed

commented frequently on the attitudes of the camp officers.

Some were good;

some were bad. Some of them treat you like they would give you everything

you want. Not everything - only if they bring. They were eating lollies.

We were watching them eat lollies and ice cream and somebody said, "What

are you doing? You are eating in front of our children and they are

hungry." Some of the children jump on him and say, "Give me

the lollies" … Some were nice and some mean. Some people very,

very good. They can understand us. But some not. They think we're like

animals. Just eating like sheep, eat, eat. We not came for eat. In my

country we can eat anything. We came for freedom. Government in Iran

and Iraq is very bad. We came here for freedom. But no freedom, just

10 months in the jail. My friend she came with us and she has one son,

now two years and 4 month, she in the jail, in Curtin. (Boy under 10

years and his mother)

While in the camp

the children were interviewed about their situations and their applications

to remain in Australia as refugees. The interviews as they described them

were often intensive and threatening. Two brothers were required to undergo

a series of tests before the authorities were satisfied that they were

telling the truth about their relationship and their ages. And then they

were questioned repeatedly at great length about their claim to be Afghan

and not, as the interviewer asserted, Iranian. The rigorousness of this

testing contrast starkly with the brothers' requests for medical assistance.

No independent adult support person was present during these interviews.

They more concerned

with other tests than with my health. We had to have tests to prove

that we were brothers and they did some tests, DNA. First time it did

not come through. They did it a second time and it was proved that we

were brothers. Then they said that we were not underage and they did

a bone test and it was proved that we were underage. Finally we were

told that we were not Afghans as we come from a place on the border

with Iran, and we have an Iranian accent. (Unaccompanied teenage boy)

… they did

not provide such a thing [an adult support person]. At the interview

there was someone they called a case officer, a female, a male interpreter

and a male that was doing nothing but sitting and listening and I do

not know what was his role. (Teenage girl)

When [staff from

DIMA] came they kept asking me where did I come from, which part of

Afghanistan. He finished a whole tape, both sides, asking me questions

… We were not told that we could have anyone else with us. They

took ten boys at the same age and they took pictures of us all and asked

us to smile and we smiled. After that they took us to a room and interviewed

each of us. I cannot say exactly but approximately 2 hours or so. They

interviewed us and then sent us out another way, so we would have not

contact with the others (Who else was in the interview room?) One interpreter

and probably two others. (Did they explain who they were and where they

had come from?) Yes. They asked us about our experience in Afghanistan,

why did we come and how did we come. I was very scared. It was the first

time I had been interviewed and I was scared and crying. They did not

care about what was my experience. They were so focused on the interview

I wasn't important. They could have explained about the type of questions

they would ask and explain the purpose, why they were interviewing us

and try and calm us down. They could have made it easier for us …

[When I cried] they just kept interrogating me. (After the interview

did they tell you what would happen with what you had told them?) No

… I was afraid that I would stay in this camp forever for there

were people there that had been years in the camp and they were totally

mad. They had lost their mind and I thought I would be in the same situation.

(Unaccompanied teenage boy)

After two weeks

they interviewed us again and then a week later a third time, three

interviews in a month. Because the fighting was happening between the

Iranians and Afghans, even though they were in the camp, … they

also told us that all the visas were stopped for a month. Each time

they had a visa they would take out a few people and on the fourth time

I was released. (Unaccompanied teenage boy)

The first time

that they interviewed us they told us, "If you lie to us or make

up stories that the smuggler has told you, you will be in trouble. We

will interview when your turn has arrived." We were in a queue.

It was more official information than an interview … Three interviews,

but individual, not with my sister or brother. At first they interviewed

my older sister. They took her away so there was no contact with her

in between. Then my brother and, when he finished, [my sister and my

brother] were taken back to the camp and I was left by myself …

It was three hours and they asked me if I needed water or the toilet

and I said no but they did not offer me food … For example they

asked if I did commit any crime. I was shocked and I asked, "What

do you mean by this?" and they said had I killed anybody. I was

very uncomfortable and very difficult to answer the questions. How could

I do that? I am this age and very young. Some silly questions like that

made me uncomfortable. (Teenage girl)

We were interrogated

as though we were criminals. The interviews were hours and hours and

repeatedly asked the same questions: why did you leave your country,

what did the Taliban do, where is your father. Quite traumatic as in

our special circumstances, we had to prove our identity, whether we

were brothers, our age. English was frustrating. A few interviewers

from outside the camp came in and the interview just went on and on.

It was very uncomfortable to be in that situation. (Can you remember

fairly accurately how many hours?) Around four to five hours. I was

interviewed five times [for that long] and one was a short interview,

about half an hour. That was about what we eat, our customs. But, if

it was an interview about what I was, then it was five times that length.

I spent a month in the camp just doing interviews. The last interview

we had it was 9am until 4.45pm. The lady that interviewed us, at the

beginning she told us that, because we were children, she would not

interview us for too long. But she kept all the day, question after

question. Even if I had to leave the room, she would ask me something

as I opened the door and I would have to answer and it was very uncomfortable

for me. (During this time did you break for lunch and time to walk around?)

She had a break but we didn't. I took a glass of milk with me but did

not have an opportunity to drink my milk. The guards kept our lunch

aside for us. The lunch was cold [when given to us later]. We had water,

but no food. (Unaccompanied teenage boy)

Another child spoke

about the interview process. On this occasion he had a support person

present, a lawyer. He said that, after his visa had been approved, his

release and that of others in his group was delayed for twenty days because

of earlier disturbances at the camp.

My case officer

at the interview and I tell him if you have any question about Afghanistan

tell me now and ask me now about Afghanistan. I have not time to live

in the camp and she understand. She asked me a lot, a lot questions

about myself, about the situation of Afghanistan, about the quality

of Afghanistan, how the women wearing, how's the marriage, how you build

a house, how's your life in Afghanistan. But when I give the interview,

my lawyer he tell me good, and I was waiting for 20 days ... The Afghani

people they are starting the fighting, they are fighting in the centre

and they are hating the centre. Our legs, our bones are broken. And

for 20 days more, the visa was approved and they didn't give to us and

you must wait in here. After 20 days they call us and give to us the

visa … One lady said, "I am sorry about that. We can't give

you your visa … for more than 20 days. We are not allowed to give

to you because you are fighting." (Unaccompanied teenage boy)


While an individual

act can constitute inhuman or inhumane treatment, the whole context and

experience of detention must be taken into account when evaluating the

nature of the treatment accorded detainees and whether it meets the standards

set by law.

International human

rights jurisprudence establishes a very high threshold for an act to constitute

torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The treatment

described by the children does not reach that threshold.

The standard of inhumane

treatment is a lower standard. A lesser level of mistreatment is sufficient

to constitute failure to treat "with humanity and respect for the

inherent dignity of the human person, and in a manner which takes into

account the needs of persons of his or her age". Several aspects

of the children's treatment fail to meet this standard, both generally

for all the detained children and in relation to particular incidents

affecting individual children. This includes:

  • The general conditions

    in the camps, the living conditions of the children, accommodating children

    with adult detainees who were not relatives, the denial of opportunities

    for useful activity, being routinely called by number rather than name,

    lengthy interrogation in the absence of an independent adult support

    person and other aspects of the detention described by the children

    combine to establish conditions of detention that violate the requirement

    of treatment "with humanity and respect for the inherent dignity

    of the human person, and in a manner which takes into account the needs

    of persons of his or her age" under article 37(c) of the Convention

    on the Rights of the Child.

  • The interrogation

    of children for lengthy periods, without food and in the absence of

    an independent adult is a violation of the requirements of article 37(c).

    These practices are not permitted in Australia during the interrogation

    of juvenile criminal suspects and they are even more unacceptable during

    the interrogation of traumatised child asylum seekers. Those children

    who were interrogated under these circumstances were treated inhumanely.

  • The conditions

    in the closed camp have been described. They are unsuitable for children.

    The child who was detained in the closed camp for a period of three

    months was subjected to inhumane treatment and possibly to inhuman treatment.


Recommendations already

made in relation to particular aspects of detention would address some

of the concerns in relation to humane treatment that respects the inherent

dignity of the children. The additional issue raised in this section is

the process of interviewing or interrogating the children and maintaining

a duty of care.

The Commission recommends

that the Department of Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs;

26. Adopt standards

and procedures for interviewing children. These standards should accord

child asylum seekers protection and safeguards at least as high as those

accorded children interviewed in the course of criminal investigation,

whether as a potential offender or as a victim of crime. The procedures

need to include that:

  • Child detainees

    should not be interviewed for lengthy periods of time and during the

    course of an interview they should be provided as required with food,

    drink and opportunities for breaks.;

  • The number

    of interviews with child detainees should be kept to the absolute

    minimum necessary to establish the basic facts of the child's claim

    for protection;

  • A child detainee

    should not be interviewed without the presence of an independent supportive

    adult who has the confidence of the child;

  • Each child

    detainee should have an advocate who will speak on his or her behalf,

    if the child so desires. A child detainee is entitled to legal advice

    and representation before and during an interview; and

  • Child detainees

    should not be interviewed in threatening or hostile environments.

    The interview should be conducted in a child friendly location and

    in a supportive manner.



The Convention

on the Rights of the Child

Article 22 obliges

states to provide special measures of assistance to child refugees and

asylum seekers.

1. States Parties

shall take appropriate measures to ensure that a child who is seeking

refugee status or who is considered a refugee in accordance with applicable

international or domestic law and procedures shall, whether unaccompanied

or accompanied by his or her parents or by any other person, receive

appropriate protection and humanitarian assistance in the enjoyment

of applicable rights set forth in the present Convention and in other

international human rights or humanitarian instruments to which the

said States are Parties.

2. For this purpose,

States Parties shall provide, as they consider appropriate, co-operation

in any efforts by the United Nations and other competent intergovernmental

organisations or non-governmental organisations co-operating with the

United Nations to protect and assist such a child and to trace the parents

or other members of the family of any refugee child in order to obtain

information necessary for reunification with his or her family. In cases

where no parents or other members of the family can be found, the child

shall be accorded the same protection as any other child permanently

or temporarily deprived of his or her family environment for any reason,

as set forth in the present Convention.

In the context of

detention while seeking asylum the assistance required by article 37(d)

is also relevant.

Every child deprived

of his or her liberty shall have the right to prompt access to legal

and other appropriate assistance, as well as the right to challenge

the legality of the deprivation of his or her liberty before a court

or other competent, independent and impartial authority and to a prompt

decision on any such action.

The right to "appropriate

protection and humanitarian assistance" includes the right to assistance

"to trace the parents or other members of the family of any refugee

child in order to obtain information necessary for reunification with

his or her family". This provision supplements other rights that

deal with the place of a child with his or her parents and the obligation

of states to facilitate that. Under article 7 the child has, "as

far as possible, the right to know and be cared for by his or her parents".

Under article 10.1

… applications

by a child or his or her parents to enter or leave a State Party for

the purpose of family reunification shall be dealt with by States Parties

in a positive, humane and expeditious manner.

Under article 18

1. States Parties

shall use their best efforts to ensure recognition of the principle

that both parents have common responsibilities for the upbringing and

development of the child …

2. … States Parties shall render appropriate assistance to parents

and legal guardians in the performance of their child-rearing responsibilities


These provisions

recognise the particular vulnerability of children generally and of refugee

and asylum seeker children in particular. They give priority to assisting

child detainees separated from their parents with family reunification.

The children's


All the children

interviewed recounted experiences of isolation, confusion and ignorance

of the procedures under which they were detained and by which their application

for protection was to be processed.

They tell us nothing.

(Unaccompanied teenage boy)

We were not told

about the process of our application … Nothing was discussed with

us. There was no consultation. Then every now and then they would call

our number and we were not sure whether we had to go for something,

whether it was an interview or doctor appointment or something else.

They gave us no explanation … One of my memories from the closed

camp, in the male or single section, everyone went on hunger strike

as they were not being given any explanation about how long they would

be in this closed camp or when we are going to be transferred. Myself

and my brother and we had to go like for 24 hours in this hunger strike

and then they transferred us to the family section. The same camp but

the family section. When we had any question and we would ask the guards

they would say, "It is nothing to do with us. It is DIMA."

All the time we lobbied for us and they would tell us to write it down.

We did not have enough English and we did not know whom to ask. If we

wrote it in our own language there was no translation for it. (Unaccompanied

teenage boy)

Nobody told us

one single word and we didn't know if we were going to stay a month

or years. We did not know what was going to happen to us. The only time

there was an interpreter available was at the time that they interviewed

us … Other detainees in this closed camp were all in the same situation.

They did not know what was happening either …They explained to

me why they were interviewing but there were things that I had never

heard before and even if they interpreted I did not know the words.

(Teenage girl)

Yes, there was

one interpreter. He was just helping us … No, we did not know how

long. We thought one year like other people or one year and half, and

two years and after two years they were sending them back to their country.

We thought we were going to be locked in this place for a long time.

(Teenage girl)

I have a lawyer

and a case officer. (Unaccompanied teenage boy)

The interview process

itself seems to have been designed to catch the children out rather than

assist them. The comments of the children have already been reported in

this submission.

Detainees depended

on earning some money to buy small items. Children with families could

rely on them for support. Parents worked whenever they could to provide

additional items for their children.

I worked in the

kitchen for one week from 6am to 1pm for $26 for one week … We

buy chips, clothes. We clean the toilet - but the toilet was too yucky

- picked up the garbage … They don't give you money - we work,

they give us points when we go shopping and they know our points and

we buy… Yes, we work only for the children. We clean the toilet,

clean the outside, pick the rubbish, work in the kitchen - only for

the children. (Boy under 10 years and his mother)

Children without

adult family members in the camp had no access to additional money and

so no means of acquiring additional items they needed or wanted. Children

were not permitted to work and so could not earn money themselves. Unaccompanied

children were not paid any allowance or pocket money.

We had one shop,

one week open one day 7am to 1pm. The people who have money buy and

most of them that lived with me brought money with them. They buying

tapes and cassettes. I did not have any money and I applied for a job

but they said, "No, you are underage and we cannot give you a job".

I had a 100 US dollars and I lost it. I was very sick and everything

was wet and I put it inside my Holy Koran and put it in my bag and when

I arrived in the camp they take it. "What is this?" I said,

"the Koran, my money is not there". And totally lost. I do

not know who took it … the people who have the money you can buy

anything. I was given no pocket money. (Unaccompanied teenage boy)

None of the children

who had come without parents had had contact with their families since

leaving their homes to come to Australia. When accepted as refugees they

are given temporary protection visas that do not permit them to be re-united

with their families in Australia.

I have not had

one single contact since I left Afghanistan. I don't know if they are

alive or dead or if the Taliban killed them or if they were killed by

the earthquake and they don't know about me either. So I don't know

where they are. (Unaccompanied teenage boy)

When we were released

we were told that we had a temporary protection visa for three years.

We would not be able to go back to Afghanistan to see our family. After

three years our visa will be reviewed and we have permanent residency.

They told us that we can't bring our family in. (Unaccompanied teenage


Children separated

from their parents required special care and consideration but they said

none was given.

(Did they help

you in any special way because you were without your family?) No, we

were the same as anybody else. There was no special attention or special

feeling from them. (Teenage girl)


The Convention

on the Rights of the Child recognises the particular needs and vulnerability

of children who are refugees and asylum seekers. It therefore places a

specific obligation on states to provide them with protection and assistance.

The children's accounts indicate that no special assistance was provided

to them, not even to those separated from their parents and families.

The Convention singles

out a special obligation of assistance with family contact and reunification.

Not only does the Australian Government fail to assist but Australian

law specifically prohibits this assistance by denying refugees on temporary

protection visas the right of family reunion in Australia and the right

of re-entry to permit family reunion elsewhere. Many of the children interviewed

said they had had no contact with their families since they had fled their

homes. This is especially concerning. It appears that no agency, governmental

or non-governmental, is taking steps to assist unaccompanied child detainees

to re-establish contact with their families even to enable each to assure

the other of safety and well-being. Clearly this process is adding to

the stresses that children are experiencing and in the case of unattached

minors raises ethical and legal questions over the duty of care being

exercised by the Immigration Minister as guardian for these children.

The interview process

has already been discussed in relation to the obligation of humane treatment.

It is also of particular concern in relation to the obligation to provide

assistance. The safety of these children depends on accurate determination

of their status, that is, of whether they or their families have a well-founded

fear that they are at risk of persecution in their countries of origin.

However, the interviews were often conducted without appropriate assistance

being provided to vulnerable minors. As already indicated, the children

had no support person and no lawyer present while being interviewed. Alone

and under interrogation by stern officials in a foreign language, children

are likely to freeze, to be unable to tell their stories, to forget critical

events and facts, perhaps even to withhold information for fear of the

consequences of it becoming known. Immigration officials, therefore, may

not obtain all the information or all the relevant information required

for the right decision to be made. As a result, there is a real risk that

refugee children may be denied the protection to which they are entitled

under Australian and international law.


The Commission recommends

that the Department of Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs:

27. Develop guidelines

that set out the assistance it will provide to child detainees to fulfil

its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

In particular it should state clearly its understanding of its responsibilities

towards child detainees who come to Australia without adult family members

to support and care for them. It should ensure that its guidelines and

procedures are consistent with Refugee Children: Guidelines on Protection

and Care and Guidelines on Policies and Procedures in dealing with Unaccompanied

Children Seeking Asylum issued by the United Nations High Commissioner

for Refugees in 1994 and 1997 respectively.

28. Make every

possible effort to enable child detainees to contact their parents and

other family members outside Australia as soon as possible after arrival

to assure them of their safety and well-being and to obtain information

from their families. These children should then be assisted to maintain

regular contact with their separated family members.

The Commission also

recommends that;

29. The Government

should amend migration legislation to permit reunification in Australia

of refugee children and their parents, guardians or carers and their

child siblings, in line with sound child development practice.



All the children

interviewed spoke of their longing for release while detained. The success

of their applications for protection and their release from detention

should have been occasions of joy and celebration for them. However, all

spoke of the period of their release as if it were a further hardship,

a further trauma, they had to endure. It was generally sudden, threatening

because the children feared rejection of their application, confusing

and physically difficult because of the long journeys they had to make

to reach the city to which they had been assigned.

They just called

us at 9am and said, "You have to be ready by 10am. You are going."

No time to say goodbye. Just put our clothes in a bag. They said, "You

have to go by this car and put in a city" and then we went in airplane

and we went to Tasmania. It was hard and we had no food. (Did someone

meet you?) Yes, we were met. She was not from our detention centre.

There was some men who came out before us and the men had a friend.

Her name was Suzy. And she came to meet and help us. She took us to

a hotel and then - it was so hard as we did not talk English and we

had to change our train and airplane. We did not know where we were

to go. When we arrived in Tasmania we did not know where it was and

they showed us a map as we thought we had left Australia … [T]he

woman who met us was so kind to us. She was an Australian. She was so

kind and nice. First person that was nice to us. (Teenage girl )

One day they come

tell us the number and you go in the office and, when we go in the office,

he say we can go out. (Did he ask where you want to go or just tell

you?) Just tell you. No, he did not ask us, only saying, "You going

Canberra or Melbourne". We came at 6.30am and waited for two hours

and got so tired. We were very happy, going outside and other people

were crying, "Why we in here?" Some of my friends were staring.

I say bye bye. (Were you sad to leave your friends behind?) I was so

sad. I was not happy because I could not take my best friends with me.

(Boy under 10 years and his mother)

We were outside.

The police had a paper and he say, "[My number], come inside. [Another

number], come inside." We go to inside. "This is visa, a photocopy

not original, and you give when you arrive in Brisbane to someone who

is working here". And we came to Brisbane. For this it take a week.

It was very long time. I was taken to the hospital on the way as I was

sick on the bus. Four days - four days on the bus, day and night, two

drivers. They had a bed. All the time we sit like this and our legs

became very fat. (Unaccompanied teenage boy)

Then they got a

map and they chose us and called out our name. Then they said, "Melbourne.

Canberra. Melbourne. Canberra." And me and my family got Canberra

and then we went on the bus for three days … Officer chose. If

you went on that side you went to Canberra on the same bus. (Did you

understand what was going on?) We just found out. (Do you think Mum

and Dad understood what was going on?) No. (Boy under 10 years and his


It was around 5

am in the morning and that guard came and called my number and my brother's

number. My brother was praying and he was not in the room. He said,

"Pack up your things. You have half an hour. You need to go somewhere

else and you have got your visa." I had to wait for my brother

and I did not know where we were going. Just in half an hour we had

to pack up. (Unaccompanied teenage boy)

Around noon time

they told us that we would be released the following morning and we

were to pack up our belongings. They released us around 9 am the following

morning. They gave us a sheet of paper with something written on it

but they did not give us one single explanation of what would happen

to us We were taken from there in a small car and went to Derby and

from there we were sent to Perth by plane. We spent 3 hours in Perth.

The person from DIMA that came with us gave us $30 so that we could

buy some food. Then they arranged another trip for us from Perth to

Melbourne by plane. Then we were taken to a church in Melbourne. In

the church there were very nice people and they gave us different food

and fruit. A lady explained that this bread was halal … They told

us to wait another hour. Other people were also released at the same

time as us but, because we took a flight, we had to wait for them to

arrive They told us we could stay in the evening in the church and they

would try and provide us with some accommodation. When they first arrived

they gave us food and fruit for free but they told us after that if

we needed any food we had to pay for it. (Teenage girl)

We went for four

days and four nights in a bus. (Did they explain how far it was and

how long it would take?) They did not tell us anything. But we were

so happy to be leaving that, if they had told us to walk, we would have

walked. (When you were travelling on the bus did you get breaks, food

and water?) We had stops in different places but the food was just a

slice of bread and a little jam and the same for all the meals …

Usually we had three stops in the daytime. (Unaccompanied teenage boy)

The youngest child

interviewed explained the release experience well.

… I was happy

to be leaving Curtin. (How come you were happy to leave Curtin?) Because

we did not have freedom for ten months. (So once you had left Curtin

you were going to be free?) Yes. (Boy under 10 years and his mother)

8.0 LIFE


All the children

interviewed have been recognised as refugees and granted temporary protection

visas. These visas do not provide entitlement to permanent residence in

Australia. Originally holders of temporary protection visas could apply

within 30 months for permanent resident status but changes to the law

on 26 September 2001 removed this right and replaced it with an entitlement

only to seek another temporary protection visa. Those on temporary protection

visas before that date could have applied for permanency before they lost

the right to do so but some of the children said they were not informed

of this or did not understand the information provided to them. As a result

they failed to apply and lost the opportunity to obtain permanent resident


They told us that

we had a temporary protection visa and that we could lodge our application

within 30 months but it did not matter if we did this today or in 30

months. So we did not do it. Later on we were told that we should have

done it, because we can't get permanent residency because we lodged

our application after the law changed. (Who gave this wrong information?

Was it the guards or DIMA?) It was DIMA. (Teenage boy)

So life for these

children remains insecure and their futures uncertain.

The children were

interviewed in Sydney. Most had originally been sent to other cities,

including Launceston, Brisbane, Perth, Canberra and Melbourne, but they

had felt isolated, alone and unsupported and without contact with people

of the same culture and language. All had come to Sydney, where there

are larger numbers of people in these small immigrant communities. Some

unaccompanied children came here because people who had come earlier from

their region offered them accommodation and support. In fact the generosity

of people in a very new and very poor immigrant community was astounding.

When I came to

the Renmore Centre [in Brisbane] to give the visa, a man sit next to

me and he said, not in English, in my language, and asked how was I.

"Where do you come from? How old are you? What is your name? What

is your father's name? Which camp were you? Who are you staying with?

It is hard for you to stay by yourself." I said, "I have no

relative here, so God help me." "Are you the son of____?"

I said, "Yes". He said, "Oh, I know that his friend is

here in Australia. He came from Afghanistan. Do you know him?"

I said, "Yes, I know him". "He is in Sydney and has a

job here. Do you want his mobile number?" And he give me this number.

I rang him and he said, "Hello, who are you/" And I said.

"I am [name deleted]" I said, "I am his son". And

he said, "You must come here. I have room for you. You must come

here. You have no mother and no father. I will look after you."

(Unaccompanied teenage boy)

Accidentally one

day, in the station, I saw somebody. I was with my cousin and I told

him that I know this person. He was from Afghanistan and had a kind

of business or shop there. We hesitated and then we introduced ourselves

and we were right. He was from our village. And we asked him if we could

stay with him. We explained our circumstances and he said he was from

Sydney and that he was on a trip to Melbourne. We asked if we could

come to Sydney. He accepted us but he said we have to go to Sydney.

(Unaccompanied teenage boy)

I was sharing a

room [in Melbourne] with two other boys and they were underage with

no adult supervision and they kept fighting all the time. I was scared

that something would happen to us. I kept asking the immigration to

move me from Melbourne … I came to stay with these people in Sydney,

two adults. All TPV holders, single males. I am happy with them, not

the same as family, but what can I do? … For a month I was wandering

around but I heard that there was something called DOCS and then I found

DOCS and they told me to wait for a week. There were other children

being released from detention and they would provide a service for us

all together … Several case managers changed. The first one enrolled

us in school and another brought us some bedding and stuff. But it is

the experience of all of us, the case manager now is not good. He does

not care about us. He does not treat us as human. (Unaccompanied teenage


Most were studying

at school or technical college or doing language classes. Some were working.

The temporary nature of their status in Australia is making it hard for

them to focus on study or work. They remain in limbo, not knowing their


I did not study

well in my country and now I am not studying well in Australia as I

think of too many other things. If they send us back to our country,

it is not going to work for our education. We have to keep starting

again and again … (You go to school here?) Yes, in [name deleted]

and it is a good school and we have friends at that school, lots of

Afghani children but also mixed friends now. We are learning at that

school. (Teenage girl)

I am now in Year

10. Before, I was in intensive English centre and some of my Afghani

friends said, "Why are you studying? You have to work to earn money

because after two years your visit will be over and you have to go back.

Just earn money." That is why I didn't really study hard in the

intensive English center, because I thought I had to work and I was

just wasting my time in the IEC. Then I went to the high school and

I am not thinking about that anyway, just trying to study. Money is

not everything. (Teenage girl)

When I came here

for 25 days I did not go to school. After 25 days I was taken by another

friend who thought it a good idea to go to school. He asked me do I

want to study or go to work and I said, "I want to have an education.

I like to study." He said, "Good, I think you should go to

school too as you are too young". Now I am at school. I am a student.

(Unaccompanied teenage boy)

Some of the children

have regained a sense of ambition, of determination to succeed.

I want to be a

doctor. I want to be things that I can't be, but I wish that I could

[be] like a professor. Then after that a doctor. Or after that the boss

of immigration, look after refugees, think about what is going on for

them. To help them feel better and happy in Australia. They flee their

country to come to Australia because they are refugee and it is really

difficult. (Teenage girl)

All the children,

however, were still finding life difficult. Almost all showed signs of

anxiety and continued to be distressed about their experiences both prior

to detention and in detention itself. They showed symptoms of continuing

trauma and there is a real concern about their ongoing mental health and

well-being and the uncertainty of their status makes it almost impossible

for them to adjust and resolve their psychological trauma. During the

interviews, one boy scratched himself constantly, arms, legs and abdomen,

although there was no sign of rash or other irritation on his skin. Another

had a facial twitch. Another blinked continually. Well after their release

from detention they still bore the marks of their experiences before leaving

their countries of origin, during the dangerous travel to Australia and

while detained in Australia.


Many of the recommendations

already made would assist in making the process of release and life after

release smoother and more informed, thereby reducing the anxiety and stress

currently associated with the process.

The Commission recommends


30. Similar to

care and protection and juvenile justice systems an emphasis needs to

be placed by the Commonwealth Government on post immigration detention

release for children and young people. These children and young people

need to be able to access the full range of services available to all

other members of the community to assist their transition to the community.

The emphasis needs to be placed on community integration and associated

levels of servicing not temporary and partial servicing.


The children interviewed

were asked to reflect on their experiences and nominate their priorities

for changing the detention centres.

Some of the comments

reflected their feelings and reactions to their own experiences, like

the young boy already quoted who wanted to reduce the camp manager to

the size of an ant and then put him in an ant jail.

Other comments were

very practical, addressed to the physical deficiencies in the camps. They

demonstrated insight into the difficulties the children encountered and

how these difficulties could be corrected.

Helping the people

- put in taps and TV and playgrounds and toys in the detention centre,

clothes. No washing the toilets. (Teenage girl)

More teachers,

a nice room, computers and they have to put effort in to teach them

so they can use their time effectively. Probably, entertainment and

activities like football and swimming in a timetable, something that

is structured … Also I would suggest have maximum four people in

one room under 18, because the situation with children is different

to adults as adults are mature and they can control their talking and

negotiate but children cannot do this. And I experienced real difficulties

with shared room with 22 others because everybody had their own rule

and their own king. Adults are not like this and I would have liked

to have something like this. (Unaccompanied teenage boy)

We were never allowed

to go out. Better to take us out for sightseeing, better than just being

imprisoned. (Unaccompanied teenage boy)

For children Port

Hedland camp was too small for in five minutes you could finish walking

around - in the free camp that is. There should be very special facilities

for children if they have to be detained. They would have something

to distract them, to play, like a basketball court in a nicer area than

where it is located at the moment. Then for education they have to have

more hours and more teachers and different subjects and according to

their age. Because they are putting people of different age in one group

and it is hard to catch up. The closed camp was like a prison, no freedom

and only one or two hours [outside] but this was not enough. They should

make it available to have access to outdoor games and to education system

because it was awful in the closed camp. (Unaccompanied teenage boy)

They need to change

the food in the third camp. It was awful and not good for children.

(Teenage boy)

Implicit in all the

comments is the wish to be treated as children, as a human being. Two

boys said it explicitly.

If they have to

detain people, some things have to be changed. They have the right to

be human and treated as human, to live free within the camps. In the

closed camp you feel like a prisoner. Even if there is a camp, people

should have access outside the camp, children especially. There is no

need for them to be in prison. At the moment the Australian government

is getting bad reputation, getting attention of the world, the way they

are treating detainees, especially children. Even if the detention is

there, they should have freedom to walk inside and outside the camp.

If someone is knocking on your door seeking help, you would not kick

that person out. If you don't want them in, tell them go back. But if

you allow them in, treat them as humans. (Unaccompanied teenage boy)


children] should be treated as human and given special attention. They

should have a separate room with another boy or girl their age. They

should have someone to pay attention to them. They do not have their

family and they need someone to care for them. I would have liked to

have someone come at least once a week to check on me to see if I was

OK but they didn't. (Unaccompanied teenage boy)

The fundamental issue,

however, raised by many of the children, was the detention itself.

First of all there

should not be any detention or camp and it is absolutely difficult to

be in a camp situation, particularly for a child without parents, as

in my circumstances. (Unaccompanied teenage boy)

What is the point

of having detention camp? So I wish it would never happen, we would

never have camps, because of how difficult it is to be in a camp situation.

I know someone who is 16 and he is still in the camp and when I remember

him I feel so sorry for him. He is only 16 and his life in the camp

for that period of time. (Unaccompanied teenage boy)

Not so much time

in detention. They need to go to school, education, medicine. (Teenage


I think there should

not be any detention for children at least. All these Afghans that are

spending months or years in detention, they have not done anything wrong,

they are not criminals and they should listen to them. But there should

not be any detention for children. They should be free. (Teenage boy)

And there was also

the question of security and permanency for those recognised as refugees.

The visa - can

we live here forever or not? Schools and education for all the people,

whether they are on temporary visa or not. (Teenage girl)

This visa that

they gave me. Everywhere I go they say, "Oh, this is temporary

visa. I can't do this for you." What is this visa? (Unaccompanied

teenage boy)


Nothing can justify

the present treatment of children who come here seeking protection from

persecution. The children interviewed for this submission spoke freely

and courageously, often with difficulty and emotion, about their experiences

in Australia's detention centres. No doubt their statements were coloured

by those experiences. No doubt some may have misinterpreted events or

not remembered or not remembered perfectly what happened. However, the

children presented a clear and consistent picture of life for child detainees.

It is a picture of routine, everyday human rights violation that does

not recognise their needs as children.

The long-term implications

of such treatment for these individual children and young people are problematic.

A perception of being unwanted, unwelcome and unsupported is concerning

not the least for its lack of humanity but also for the long term cost

to the individual and the Australian community as these children are released

and will need to be supported within the community, to overcome their

traumatic experiences.

A picture of a culture

of punishment and dehumanisation emerges from the camps; a picture that

is not considered acceptable within prisons yet appears to be in place

for 'administrative detention'. The emergence of such a culture is in

breach of Australia's international obligations and for children is so

detrimental as to jeopardise the very development of children and young

people into sound functioning adults. To counter this a radical change

is required to make Immigration Detention as humane as possible and not

damaging to a child's development. The Commission considers the most humane,

sensible and pro-child development option is to not detain children in

immigration detention, as the children have expressed themselves. The

Commission acknowledges this may take some time to develop humane community

options in line with our international obligations and therefore calls

for the immediate implementation of all the recommendations in this report

to assist in making "immigration detention" more child-friendly

and ultimately humane.

The needs of these

children encompass the almost entire range of human needs. Some of can

be addressed by services that are traditionally the responsibility of

the Commonwealth government; other by services which generally fall within

State/Territory jurisdictions.


The Commission recommends


31. Commonwealth,

State and Territory Governments, as a matter of priority, agree on their

respective responsibilities in relation to children and young people

in immigration detention centres and those who have been released. This

agreement should be confirmed through a formal memorandum of understanding.

The submission has

sought to give voice to the views of the children themselves. The concluding

words, therefore, belong to them.

It was like a prison,

not detention … In the first few weeks their attitude was good

to us, treating us as a human, but gradually it changed, day by day

and week by week …We have had enough to deal with, with the traumatic

journey, leaving our families and not knowing about anything that has

happened to them and them not knowing anything about us. We needed to

be treated better than we were treated in detention camp. (Unaccompanied

teenage boy)

I had never been

in a camp in my life. I was by myself and it was enough trauma to leave

my family and I would have expected that they take us somewhere to see

some pleasure sight of Australia, not just concentrated in a camp, at

least taken us in a bus on an excursion to a beach or somewhere and

at least we have something to hold on, to a better view of Australia

than just the camp. We had lost our family. (Unaccompanied teenage boy)

I am not sure how

people who are out of detention could sense or feel the situation of

the person who has been in detention. It is that bad. (Unaccompanied

teenage boy)

That is what we

want, that our message will be heard. (Unaccompanied teenage boy)



I understand that

the purpose of the interview is to share my experience as a child or young

person who has been in immigration detention for the purposes of a submission

that the NSW Commission for Children and Young People are making to an

enquiry by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. The data

may also be used by STARRTS for their submission.

I understand that:

1. I am participating

in this research voluntarily;

2. The information will only be used to assist the Commissioner for

Children and Young People, Gillian Calvert, and STARRTS to make a submission

to an enquiry being undertaken by The Human Right and Equal Opportunity


3. The submission will be a written report but, if I am interested,

there will be an opportunity to tell my story in person;

4. Anything that I talk about today is confidential. That means my information

may be used but that my name or any unique details that could identify

me will not appear in the report;

5. The interview will be taped however the only people who will hear

the tape will be the project team and the transcriber. The tape will

be destroyed after transcription.

6. The transcripts will be kept at the Commission for Children and Young

People for one year after which they will be destroyed;

7. I can end the interview or take a break whenever I like during the

interview and that I don't have to talk about anything I don't want


8. I can talk to someone after the interview if I want to

9. Regardless of the length of the interview I have received $40 to

cover expenses.

I _________________________

agree participate in the NSW Commission for Children and Young People's


Signature of participant:






1) Could you tell

me your story of being in detention?

2) How did you


3) What did you

think of the detention centre(s) you were in?

4) What were the

good and bad things?

5) What do you

think were the good and bad things about the:

a) Food and drink

b) Shelter including bedroom and bathroom (also ask about issues of


c) Clothing you were provided (also ask whether you got to keep personal


d) access to medical attention

6) How would you

describe the level of support and respect for yours or others religious


7) Describe your

level of understanding of what was occurring to you and your family

whilst in detention? For instance:

Were interpreters available?

Did you know what was happening to your application or your family's

application to stay in Australia?

Were you kept informed about the likelihood of release?

8) What was the

health of people in the detention centre(s) like?

9) What education

did you receive at the detention centre? Please tell us about how you

spent your day and what you did at school and elsewhere. Did you go

on school excursions?

10) What opportunities

did you have for play, sport and games? What equipment was there? Did

you go outside the centre for excursions or sport or play? How often

and where to?

11) Did you able

to participate in decisions that affected you? In what ways?

12) Did you feel

safe in the centre?

13) Tell me about

how you got on with others specifically



Other detainees

14) Tell me about

your experiences at the time of leaving detention?

15) Did you have

access to people from outside the detention centre either by phone,


face-to-face specifically:

family that weren't detained

representatives from NGO

16) How could your

own experience of immigration detention been improved and how could

it be improved for other children and young people?




Hi, my name is _____________

and I work for the Inspire Foundation. We have been asked by the NSW Commission

for Children and Young People to talk with about 12 young people who have

been in immigration detention. The reason for the interviews is that the

Commissioner, Gillian Calvert, is making a submission to an enquiry being

undertaken by Human Right and Equal Opportunity Commission. She wants

to make sure that, when she is making her submission, the experiences

of young people are being told. She believes it is important that children

and young people are heard so that people and places can change to be

more child friendly and supportive. The submission will be a written report

but, if you are interested, there will be an opportunity to tell your

story in person. I will leave you some information on the Commission for

Children and Young People behind after the interview.

I expect that we

will talk for about one hour and that we will discuss things such as your

experiences when you arrived, what it was like living in the detention

centers, including things like the food, whether you went to school or

had time to play. I also want to talk about how you got on with staff

and other people at the centre and what happened when you left.

Anything that we

talk about today is confidential. That means we may use the information

you give us but your name or any unique details that could identify you

will not appear in the report. If it is OK with you I will record the

interview. However the only people who will hear the tape will be the

project team and the transcriber. After your interview has been transcribed

it will be destroyed. What you and other children and young people say

will be analysed into themes, that is common experiences and ideas will

be grouped together. These themes will be reported and quotes will be

used to illustrate them though these will not use names or any unique

details that could identify you.

If something we talk

about is upsetting to you or you do not want to talk about something,

then that is OK. And if you want to speak with someone who can help you

deal with upsetting things from the past, then we can arrange that for

you. We can end the interview at any time or take a break if you need

to. Regardless of the length of the interview we will provide you with

$40 to cover expenses. Before we start can we fill out a consent form.



1. Are you [ ]male

[ ] female

2. What is your year

of birth?

3. What is your country

of birth?

4. What is your ethnic


5. What is your religious


6. Did you live anywhere

else prior to coming to Australia

7. How many of your

family members did you arrive with (please list)?

8. What was your

age when you first entered immigration detention in Australia?

9. What was your

age when you left immigration detention in Australia?

10. Length of time

spent in immigration detention?

11. What Australian

immigration detention centres have you been detained in? (include details

of how long you spent in each centre)

1. Migration

Act 1989 (Cth).

2. Detention is imposed on all unlawful non-citizens from

arrival until a visa is granted on refugee or humanitarian grounds or

until deportation.

3. Although technically the lawfulness of detention can

be challenged, the Act requires detention of unlawful non-citizens and

the court has no jurisdiction to examine the reasonableness or necessity

of detention and order release. There is therefore no effective right

of judicial review.

4. Article 37(b).

5. Other international human rights treaties also contain

relevant provisions, most significantly the International Covenant on

Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic,

Social and Cultural Rights. The law, policy and practice of indefinite

mandatory detention, including of children, also violates provisions of

these treaties. However, this submission deals specifically only with

the situation under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

6. See for example, Human Rights and Equal Opportunity

Commission Those who've come across the seas 1998 and the decision of

the Human Rights Committee under the International Covenant on Civil and

Political Rights in A v Australia 1999.

7. According to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity

Commission the initial period of segregated detention is to prevent new

arrivals learning from other detainees what rights they have under Australian

law to make an application for protection and to request and obtain independent

legal advice: Those who've come across the seas 1998.

8. See, for example, Human Rights and Equal Opportunity

Commission Those who've come across the seas 1998.

9. Article 19.1.

10. Article 34.


Updated 30 June 2003.