Skip to main content

Commission Website: National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention

Click here to return to the Submission Index

Submission to National Inquiry

into Children in Immigration Detention from

the Queensland Independent

Education Union (QIEU) Equity Committee


Refugee Rights and the Rights of the Child
2. Health and Nutrition

Prevention, Treatment and Accommodation of Disabilities

Psychological and Social Well-being



Legal Issues


Detention and Alternatives to Detention


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.

  • Establishment

    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.

  • Re-evaluation

    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.

  • Re-evaluation

    of the total number of refugee places including consideration of a flexible

    quota to take account of overseas crises.


Refugee Rights and the Rights of the Child

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.

Children detained

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.


Health and Nutrition

All refugees/immigrants

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;

Detainees should

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;

Detainees should

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.


Detainees should

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.


Prevention, Treatment and Accommodation of Disabilities


who have or develop medical conditions or physical/mental disabilities

should not be automatically barred from entry into the wider Australian


However, children

with existing disabilities will require special care and assistance initially

on arrival and stay in country of asylum.

Consequently, every

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.


Psychological and Social Well-being

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

social environment.

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.



Education should

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

from family;

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:

  • Books
  • Writing materials
  • Lighting
  • Time
  • 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

first language.

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.


Legal Issues

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.

Detention itself

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.

Consequently, all

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.

8. Detention

and Alternatives to Detention

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.

Where immigrants

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

be kept:

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

processing occurs.


Updated 9 January 2003.