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Submission to the National

Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention from

United Nations Association

of Australia Inc, Tasmanian Branch



Background

1. UNAA Tasmania records its support for the submission submitted by

the Executive Committee of the United Nations Association of Australia

(Inc.)

2. Recognises the

obligations of the Australian Federal Government as a signatory, on

22nd August, 1990, to the Convention on the Rights of the Child as at

15th October 1996 (187), this coming into force on 16th January 1991.

3. Recognises that

Federal and State Governments have legislation and policies in the fields

of health, education and welfare to protect the rights of children in

Australia in accord with this Convention on the Rights of the Child.

4. Also recognises

that the Federal Government, in implementing its Refugee Policies, has

failed to provide for the rights of refugee children and their families

who are detained in Detention centres, due to their method of entry

into Australia..

5. These we shall

refer to as “Asylum Seekers” to distinguish them from Refugees

who are processed off-shore and admitted as Legal Refugees.

Submissions

1. We submit that

the Federal Government’s policy towards the Asylum Seekers since

11th September has associated them with “would-be terrorists”

and as the products of “people traffickers” created suspicion,

fear and mistrust in a significant portion of the Australian Community.

This allowed them to treat these people as criminals, rather than as

desperate people escaping the intolerable situations in their countries

of origin. In this policy there was no distinction between families

with children or unaccompanied children.

2. We submit that the use of the terms “queue jumpers” and

“illegal immigrants’

and reports of “children being thrown overboard’ fuelled

fear and resentment against these people, which enabled the Government

to get unilateral political support for its policies for confinement

of these people (including the children)in prison-like facilities and

to ignore their rights under the Refugee Convention and the rights of

“refugee children” to “appropriate 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”. (Article 22 of the Convention

on the Rights of the Child.)

3. We further submit that the rights for the children “not to

be separated from their parents, except by competent authorities for

their well being” was not respected in some cases when detainees

in Detention Centres were prevented from joining family members already

legally in Australia and where children were fostered into the community,

for their “well-being” while their parents remained in detention.

In these cases the parents should have been “assisted to provide

appropriate direction and guidance in the exercise by the child of the

rights recognised in the of the Convention. (Articles 5 and 10 of Convention

on the Rights of the Child.).

4. We submit that for the Government to honour its obligations under

the Convention on the Rights of the Children, they have regard for Article

3 which provides for “all action taken by …legislative bodies,

the best interests of the child shall be the primary consideration”

and that “State Parties undertake to ensure the child such protection

and care as is necessary for his or her well-being.

5. We submit that

parents and children should have been placed in an environment which

provided for the welfare of the children under the terms of the Convention

on the Rights of the Child with regard to access to health, education

and recreation facilities (Articles 24 and 31).

6. We submit that

with regard to the education of the children, their lessons should focus

on learning English, learning about the Australian environment and the

social norms of the people, and such other learning as would assist

them to fit into a regular school if and when they were accepted as

“legal refugees”. Their parents also would benefit from

education on health issues and child care practices in this country.

7. We submit that

reports of the effect of the conditions of detention on detainees have

caused psychological trauma and physical and mental health problems

particularly for the children (classified as below 18 years of age).

Article 37(a) of the Convention of the Rights of the Child provides

that “no child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman

or degrading treatment or punishment” and Article 37 (b) provides

for detention to be “used only as a measure of last resort and

for the shortest appropriate period of time. Article 37 (c) provides

for “Every child deprived of liberty to be treated with humanity

and respect for the inherent dignity of the human person”.

We believe that these

conditions have not been adhered to within the detention centres and point

out that Article 39 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child makes

the State Parties responsible to “take all appropriate measure to

promote the physical and psychological recovery and social re-integration

of a child victim of any form or neglect, or abuse, torture or any form

of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” and that “such recovery

and re-integration shall take place in an environment which fosters the

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

Recommendations

The UNAA Tasmania

recommends:

(a) That the Federal

Government makes every effort bring the treatment of children and their

families into compliance with the conditions of the Convention for

the Rights of the Child.

(b) That it implements

and carries out a policy of uniting families and not sending back mothers

and children whose immediate family members are already in this country.

(c) That programmes

be implemented to redress the physiological and psychological damage

suffered by children and their families due to the conditions in detention

centres.

d) We also recommend

that opportunity be taken to explain the laws in Australia regarding

the practice of Female Genital Mutilation and the health reasons for

these to all refugees coming from .countries where FMG is practiced.

e) That Community

Programmes be funded to restore the reputation and credibility of these

Asylum Seekers to assist with their integration into the Community when

they become recognised as Refugees under the terms of the Convention

for Refugees.

f) That the United

Nations be consulted about the conditions in countries to which the

Government intends to return any of these Asylum Seekers, to ascertain

the conditions there and the safety of the returnees.

UNAA Tasmania

Hobart

April, 2002

Last

Updated 30 June 2003.