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Submission to the National
Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention from
United Nations Association
of Australia Inc, Tasmanian Branch
1. UNAA Tasmania records its support for the submission submitted by
the Executive Committee of the United Nations Association of Australia
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
5. These we shall
refer to as “Asylum Seekers” to distinguish them from Refugees
who are processed off-shore and admitted as Legal Refugees.
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
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.”
The UNAA Tasmania
(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
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
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.
Updated 30 June 2003.