Submission to National Inquiry
into Children in Immigration Detention from
the Queensland Independent
Education Union (QIEU) Equity Committee
The Queensland Independent
Education Union (QIEU) Equity Committee is a committee of employees in
the non-government sector of education who are concerned with issues of
justness and fairness in relation to employees and students in the non-government
sector of education specifically and wider contemporary society generally.
Members of the Equity Committee are currently or have in the past been
employed as educators in the non-government sector of education and draw
on a background of experience in primary and secondary education as well
as experience in adult education.
In regard to immigrant
detention this Equity Committee believes and calls for:
- The replacement
of mandatory detention with a compassionate and humanitarian system
for processing asylum seekers consistent with our international obligations.
Introduction of compulsory processing to replace mandatory detention.
All asylum seekers to be released after initial processing of health
and security checks unless a court order is obtained for their detention.
Priority to be given to children and families. Asylum seekers to be
housed in the community whilst their claims for asylum are being processed.
- An end to the
Temporary Protection Visa (TPV) system. Give all refugees immediate
access to a permanent Protection Visa (PV).
- An enacted commitment
from our Government to provide children of asylum seekers with access
to an education in accordance with Article 28 of the Convention on the
Rights of the Child 1990.
- An end to the
system of tendering for the management of detention facilities and a
return of these facilities to direct government control.
- Initial screening
of all asylum seekers to identify torture and trauma victims in accordance
with UNHCR guidelines.
- The repeal of
legislation excising parts of Australia from Australia's migration zone.
of a fast-track processing facility on Christmas Island, using resources
currently directed towards the 'Pacific Solution' and detention.
- A re-evaluation
of the powers of the Minister and the right of appeal in order to ensure
due process and the maintenance of the doctrine of the separation of
- An end of the
'Pacific Solution' and multilateral negotiations with Indonesia and
source countries to develop a more workable offshore program.
- A de-coupling
of the onshore and offshore programs.
of the special humanitarian program in conjunction with the family reunion
program to ensure all places go to those most in need and all refugees
currently resident in Australia have access to family reunion rights.
of the total number of refugee places including consideration of a flexible
quota to take account of overseas crises.
The committee believes
that Australia has a social obligation under a number of conventions including
the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention
on the Rights of the Child, to provide a safe haven to refugees who would
seek settlement in Australia. We believe that children, because of their
age, are more vulnerable than adult refugees and hence should be offered
even greater protection and security than older refugees.
It is our belief
that immigration detainees and asylum seekers should not be held and treated
as criminals, criminal suspects or presented as a threat/risk to community
Rather the primary
focus of any supervision and/or detainment should be one of care for the
well being of the detainees. Such care should be as favourable as possible
and should not function as a punishment or continuation of adverse conditions
of migrants who have already suffered punishment/harshness or social instability/dysfunction.
should be kept within the intact family group. Unaccompanied minors should
1. Assigned to
a family group; or
2. Kept with same sex similar age refugees for processing.
It would be our position
that families should be housed together in discrete groups rather than
housed en mass.
Detainees of racial
or ethnic groups should be housed together and separated from groups that
are antagonistic to each other.
in detention should be subject to relevant screening for disease and otherwise
medically assessed. Such screening/assessment should be carried out by:
1. Medically qualified
2. Personnel who are able to converse with the detainee in their first
language or where this is not possible in the presence of an interpreter;
3. Medical personnel of same sex as detainee;
be informed as to why and which tests are being done and at the appropriate
time provided with comprehensive results to such tests;
Detainees with specific
medical needs, eg pregnant women, should be provided with services and
information to meet those needs, should also have access to cultural beliefs/behaviours
associated with condition;
be provided with full medical records when/if they are released into the
community and given guidance in regard to accessing suitable medical personnel
in the wider community.
In medical assessment
of children, special care needs to be exercised in alleviating fears of
and explaining reasons for medical tests and procedures.
Children should be
accompanied by a parent to such procedures. Unaccompanied minors should
have a same sex adult who speaks their language available to accompany
them to such procedures.
be provided with access to nourishing food and water. Such food should
reflect the cuisine of the culture from which they derive and its preparation/presentation
should reflect cultural/religious beliefs of the detainees.
Taking the above
requirements into consideration food/meals should be:
1. Provided by
detention authorities prepared especially for unaccompanied minor; or
2. Ingredients and facilities provided to detainees such that they are
able to prepare their own meals in a family situation.
who have or develop medical conditions or physical/mental disabilities
should not be automatically barred from entry into the wider Australian
with existing disabilities will require special care and assistance initially
on arrival and stay in country of asylum.
child should undergo initial assessment via a comprehensive medical examination
by trained health care professionals.
Needs and requirements
of children with disabilities and concomitant special needs must be taken
into consideration in construction of housing and centre facilities. This
is especially necessary in regard to access to buildings, ablutions and
eating areas. As well suitable play and exercise facilities must be provided
for children with physical or mental handicaps.
Families of children
with disabilities should be given access to trained workers who can educate
them in regard to how to assist the mobility and social integration of
children with physical handicaps and how to develop social behaviour and
skills of their children with mental disabilities.
In dealing with refugees/detainees
it needs to be noted that these people will most probably have suffered
severe trauma and social dislocation which may potentially be exacerbated
by treatment in a new country.
Given, the potential
for such deleterious psychological problems new immigrants should be subject
to psychological evaluation and provided with a supportive and affirming
It should be assumed
that refugees arriving in Australia may be suffering from psychological
and/or social dislocation. Given this assumption, all refugees/asylum
seekers should be assessed by appropriate means and by qualified personnel
as to their psychological and social well being.
As well there should
be ongoing monitoring and assessment both during any period of detention
and when the refugee/asylum seeker is released into the wider community.
To minimise psychological and social disease while in detention detainees
should be detained for as short a period as possible. Child detainees
should be detained with family members. Unaccompanied minors are especially
at risk - where possible such detainees should be assigned to a family
All children should
have available ongoing counselling and support.
be available to all immigrants in detention.
Adults should be
given assistance to learn the written and spoken language of the country
to which they are seeking immigration as well as to cultural and social
practices particular to that country.
Children in detention
provide special challenges in regard to education.
A number of barriers
exist for education of children who are in detention specifically:
1. Trauma associated
with fleeing/leaving a country;
2. Trauma associated with being kept in mandatory detention often isolated
3. Socio-physical problems - lack of motivation to study, space, time
and isolation for study;
4. Problems with language and customs of host country;
5. Lack of assessment as to what level of education needs to be provided;
6. Lack of qualified educational personnel to conduct assessment, development
and implementation of independent learning programs;
The degree of and
a response to the trauma associated with leaving another country to be
detained in a host country needs to be assessed by qualified personnel.
Such trauma needs to be addressed/dealt with before or if possible at
the same time as formal education continues.
Students who are
being given education in the host country need to be provided with the
physical necessities to undertake such studies including:
- Writing materials
- Space to undertake
Students need to
have instruction provided in their first language and need to be given
intensive immersion in the language of their host culture.
As well, while formal
education should be progressed all asylum seekers/detainees should be
provided with education in regard to the social practices of day to day
living in their host country.
The traditional cultural
and religious values that form part of a child's self construct should
be fostered and maintained for children in detention. Such cultural and
religious values should be acknowledged by those in charge of detainees
and the organisation of day to day life of immigrants in detention should
reflect such religious and cultural belief. Such organisation should respond
- Culturally significant
days or events;
- Dietary requirements;
- Religious practices
and freedom to practice religion including access to relevant religious
leaders and teachers;
- Children in detention
should be given access to religious and cultural education if this isn't
provided in the wider educational context.
The importance of
maintaining an immigrant child's first language shouldn't be overlooked.
Children as a function of their age/development may not be highly proficient
in their first language and probably not proficient in English.
Children in detention
should be provided with high level education and practice in their first
language. Such education should be more than functional language education
and should prove the rich language and literature of their country of
Part of the ongoing
education of children in immigration detention should involve teaching
of English. Such teaching should consist of immersion in the English language
and be of a functional nature. English language immersion should be aimed
at providing new immigrant children with the language skills necessary
to function in day to day activities in a country where English is the
Ideally, such English
language immersion should occur with teachers who are qualified and experienced
in teaching English as a second language as well as teachers who appreciate/are
proficient in the first language of their students. As well, where possible,
such English immersion should occur outside of detention centres and in
the wider Australian educational environment.
Asylum seekers and
refugees entering Australia should be entitled to natural justice and
the due process of law available to individuals in the wider society.
should only be used as a last resort and for the shortest period of time
possible. Article 37 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child states
that children deprived of their liberty have the right to access legal
and other assistance and the right to challenge the legality of their
deprivation of liberty.
child detainees (as well as adult detainees) should have ongoing access
to and advice from competent legal authorities, in regard to their detention
and their right to challenge such detention and other matters as necessary.
It would be realistic
to suggest that the impact on detainees, and young children especially
who are detained is negative.
Given the social
and physical situation from which detainees arrive their incarceration
for indefinite periods of time can only be detrimental to their physical
and mental well-being.
are detained and held in a detention centre such detention should be of
a short time and for a fixed length period of no longer than 30 days.
As well detainees should be both involved in and kept informed of the
processing of their applications. Under no circumstances should detainees
1. Uninvolved and
uninformed in regard to the processing of their application;
2. For indefinite and/or extended lengths of time.
A more humane and
less harmful method of dealing with unprocessed immigrants may involve,
after initial health checks and care, dispersing families into the wider
community where they can be both supervised and monitored while their
Updated 9 January 2003.