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Submission to the National

Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention from

United Nations Association

of Australia, Western Australia

Terms of reference

addressed are:-

  • Conditions under

    which children are detained

  • health, including

    mental health.

  • and culture.
  • The adequacy and

    effectiveness of the policies, agreements, rules and practices governing

    children in immigration detention or child asylum seekers are difficult

    to ascertain because of government secrecy regarding conditions and

    policies that govern our refugee centres

  • However, the arbitrary

    detention of child asylum seekers violate the following commitments

    Australia has made under international treaties:

  • Article 9 of

    the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article

    37 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child prohibit arbitrary detention;

  • Article 9 of

    the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article

    37 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child recognise a right to

    take legal proceedings to challenge detention;

  • Article 13 and

    15 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

    and Article 28 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child recognise

    children’s right to education.

  • Article 22 of

    the Convention on the Rights of the Child requires the state to provide

    appropriate protection and humanitarian assistance to refugee and asylum

    seeker’s children especially in relation to family reunion.

  • It is known that

    for detention centres (institutions) to function humanely and effectively-

  • asylum seekers

    especially children must be safeguarded from harm

  • they should be

    treated with respect, dignity and understanding

  • asylum seekers

    should be given purposeful activities

  • children should

    be involved in educational programs

  • information should

    be provided regarding the progress of individual applications for refugee


  • asylum seekers

    should be provided culturally appropriate health care including torture

    and trauma counselling

  • and they should

    be involved with plans and preparation for their eventual release.

  • Managers of centres

    (Australasian Correctional Management) should meet minimum quality of

    care guidelines, especially health care.

It must also be recognised

that many children in detention centres have been deeply damaged - further

trauma could be avoided, in part, by prudent selection and training of

staff and guards. It needs to be assured that only staff who have learned

to respect relevant cultures, religious traditions and are knowledgeable

of the human rights of asylum seekers and the often traumatic conditions

of countries from which the people have fled and been exposed to, will

be selected for employment.

There are also some

matters regarding health - the physical - mental and emotional well-being

of children that are of concern. And although the Commissioner’s

Inquiry may only pertain to detention centres on Australian soil - the

conditions under which children are “housed” and treated in

detention centres that are part of the “Pacific Solution”

should surely be addressed as a matter of urgency.

It is of primary

importance that the health and emotional well-being of children on Australian

soil as well as those involved in the “Pacific Solution” be

safeguarded and promoted.

**There are preventable

childhood diseases - such as measles, polio, tetanus, tuberculosis, whooping

cough and diphtheria, against which there are effective vaccines, and

diarrhoeal diseases, pneumonia and other acute respiratory infections

that can be prevented or effectively treated through relatively low cost

remedies **Ref: Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Has the Australian

government met its responsibilities regarding the above mentioned preventable

childhood diseases and infections?

And has this been

done in a culturally acceptable and informative way that refugees fully

understand and are in agreement with?

Do children who are

part of the “Pacific Solution” have the same rights as those

who are detained on Australian soil and vice versa?

**Each and every

year millions of children under five die and many more are disabled because

adequate measures are not taken to prevent or treat the afore stated physical

ailments and conditions. **Ref: Convention on the Rights of the Child.

It has been reported

that there have been at least fifteen cases of malaria amongst persons

detained as part of the “Pacific Solution” It is well known

that malaria is difficult to combat.

Therefore, has the

Australian Government taken the location of detention centres into consideration

regarding climate, general health, and preventable childhood diseases

and ailments?

Has the location

of detention centres also been taken into account regarding the emotional,

spiritual psychological and general well-being of all detainees?




Are all matters pertaining

to children’s health and emotional well being met in a culturally

sensitive and acceptable manner?

Are detention centre

staff and guards selected for their understanding, respect and knowledge

of relevant cultures religious beliefs?

And in general are

staff employed because they demonstrate compassion and respect for the

human rights of both adults and children?

What criteria governs

the selection of staff and guards for detention centres?

Today’s children

- those who survive - will be tomorrow’s citizens of the world.

At all times their human rights should be respected and upheld.

The detention of

children violates the Convention on the Rights of the Child signed and

ratified by Australia and poses long term risks to the psychological,

social development and well-being of children, especially their ability

to settle successfully in Australia or resettle in their country of origin.

As a matter of urgency

all treaties that the Australian government has ratified should be made

mandatory. Those treaties that Australia has not yet ratified should be

strengthened - ratified - then made mandatory.

Ethel Date

Human Rights Convenor

United Nations Association of Australia (WA Division)

29th April, 2002


Updated 30 June 2003.