Submission to the National
Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention from
the Australian Liquor, Hospitality
and Miscellaneous Workers Union
Australia's International Obligations (Terms of Reference 1)
Mandatory Detention of Children (Terms of Reference 2)
The Adequacy of the Detention Environment (Terms of Reference 3)
The Impact of Detention on the well being of children and additional
measures and safeguards required in detention facilities (Terms of Reference
4 & 5)
Protecting the child in the Community (Terms of Reference 6)
The Australian Liquor,
Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union (LHMU) welcomes an opportunity
to make a submission to the Commission's Inquiry into Children in Immigration
The LHMU is arguably
the most diverse trade union in Australia, with membership and industrial
coverage across a range of sectors and industries, including in hospitality
and tourism, community services and health, contracting services such
as cleaning, catering and security, and in manufacturing.
The LHMU takes a
particular interest in this Inquiry because the LHMU has thousands of
members employed in the children's services sector throughout Australia,
whose job involves the care of children in early childhood education,
pre schools and childcare.
As well, the LHMU
has membership of workers who are employed by Australian Correction Management
as detention officers in immigration detention centres. Our coverage in
this area has evolved from our historical coverage of security officers
and more recently, of correctional officers in private correction facilities.
The LHMU has been active in canvassing many "workplace" issues
on behalf of our detention officer members, some of which are canvassed
in our submission below.
The ACTU has expressed
concern about conditions involving mandatory detention, including the
fact that refugee families and independent young children are being held
for many years. The LHMU reiterates these concerns and further supports
the submission of the ACTU to this Inquiry.
Last year, over 16,000
unaccompanied children applied for asylum in Europe. In Australia, 12,000
refugees arrived through the federal government's Humanitarian program.
The LHMU has expressed the view elsewhere that Australia's contribution
is disappointing given that there has been a huge increase in the number
of people seeking asylum worldwide. Particularly disappointing is that
the number of refugees arriving through the federal government's Humanitarian
Program has remained steady over the past three years, in stark contrast
to international trends where refugee numbers have increased. 
the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CROC). Article
37(b) requires that the detention of children only be used as a measure
of last resort and for the shortest possible period. Notwithstanding this,
according to federal government statistics there were 1147 detainees aged
17 years or younger in 2000-1.  At that time, this
was the third largest age category after 21 to 25 year olds (1614 detainees)
and 26 to 30 year olds (1495 detainees). These figures indicate that at
that time, the number of children in detention comprised 15% of all detainees.
 23% of children in detention in January 2001 had
been in detention for more than six months, and a total of 14% had been
in detention for more than 12 months. 
Through its support
for the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Australia has effectively
endorsed the principle that mandatory detention of children be used as
a last resort. As noted above, Australia's support for the Convention
is at odds with the actual situation, namely a federal policy framework
which emphasises mandatory detention of asylum seekers.
Within this context,
in the case of accompanied children, a belief in the principle that a
child has a right to live with their parents leads children into a detention
environment. It is difficult to argue against the principle (that a child
has the right to live with its parents or other family members - even
in detention). It is equally difficult to conceive how the best interests
of a child can be properly addressed when the federal policy context has
as its foundation the system of mandatory detention. In the case of unaccompanied
minors, it is even more difficult to conceive how the interests of the
child are at all served by mandatory detention.
Australia is the
only Western country that has mandatory detention of asylum seekers. Clearly,
this policy has a specific impact on children (and arguably other groups,
such as women and asylum seekers) who are held in detention.
While the position
of children in detention forms the particular focus of the current deliberations,
the LHMU believes that HREOC should adopt a broad approach to its the
The emotional, psychological
and developmental impact on a child of spending a short or extended period
of time in the detention environment is both direct (ie through their
own experiences of detention) and indirect (through the impact of detention
of family members from whom the child draws for support).
We have noted above
that the impact of detention on a child is both direct and indirect. We
take this point further to add that even where children are not detained,
the absence of family members who are held in detention and the inability
to retain contact with them will have an emotional impact on children
either directly or through the impact of separation on other family members.
For this reason,
we urge the Inquiry to undertake deliberations using a "child centred"
In addressing the
issue of the possible separation of women and children (enabling women
and children to live outside detention or to live in specific family detention
centres), the Flood Report  has noted:
most women with whom this issue was raised in informal discussions with
my Inquiry, and who are currently in detention accompanied by children
and partners, made it clear that they would not be prepared to leave
male family members behind if they were offered the opportunity to be
located outside the centre with their children. Those with the strongest
views said that it would cause them serious distress if they were to
be separated from their partners"
Other practical considerations
observed in the Flood Report include: the availability of accommodation,
financial and other support, community attitudes and cost.
effect of separation on detainees who are parents can have long term consequences
for both the parent and the child. This was recently expressed by a parent
live without one's family, wife and children are the responsibility
of the head of the family. Now I am here, I do not know what is happening
to them. It is very hard for me, believe me. If the government took
me and threw me in the ocean it is better than like this".
It is also important
to have regard for the experience of the child prior to their entry to
Australia. Many children of asylum seekers have spent months or even years
in dangerous flight.
As Jasmine Zahedi
, a child refugee has commented:
hard to get out of Afghanistan. I was about 10 when we got out of there.
We came from our village to Mokur and from there we went to Karachi
. After that we got in aeroplane, I think we went to Dubai, and
from there to Jakarta and from Jakarta to Bali, and then from Bali we
got in a boat and from boat we came to Australia . We had storms.
For the two days when we were on our way, the first thing was that the
driver lost the way, he didn't know the way to Australia .. and
a fishing boat got us and we signaled them and then they called the
police and they came and took us to a small island. After that we came
to Port Hedland .. We really hoped, we really prayed that God,
please, for our safety, keep us in your safety and take us to Australia".
It is into our trust
that Jasmine and children like her, arrive.
Finally, like others
in the community, the LHMU questions the logic of detaining women and
children when their partners, who have previously arrived here and had
their refugee status determined, are released into the community. This
imposes an unnecessary hardship on refugees and their families.
In 2001, only two
centres (Port Hedland and Curtin) had playground equipment for children
and areas for sport. At Port Hedland, the LHMU is aware that the external
environment for children is one of "jungle gyms" on dirt and
the play area is surrounded by razor wire. The particular deficiencies
at Woomera hae been noted by the Inquiry into Immigration Detention (Flood
The Flood Report
has noted that the detention environment is a very difficult one for detainees.
Very few detainees arrive with a proper understanding of the length of
time it is going to take to process their applications. This leads to
increased levels of tension and unrest. Many facilities are in need of
urgent upgrading, and under the current federal government there has been
a reduction in support services for detainees, such as the provision of
English language classes.
The LHMU points out
that within this environment, the job of the detention officer is a complex
and difficult one.
Wages and conditions
of employment of detention officers are set through a non-Union enterprise
agreement. The LHMU is not a party to this agreement.
The LHMU has been
actively pursuing many of the issues facing staff, such as the need for
improved skills and training. Members of the LHMU who work in the detention
environment are sympathetic and understanding of their multifaceted role
as a detention officer, and the importance of appropriate training and
skills in contributing to their ability to perform their jobs.
it is our view that the detention environment is not suitable for children,
and an approach by this Inquiry that seeks to introduce improvements within
the detention environment may increase "adequacy", but will
fail to fully support the best interests of children.
The Impact of Detention on the well being of children and additional measures
and safeguards required in detention facilities (Terms of Reference 4
One of the area of
concerns expressed by women to the Inquiry into Immigration Detention
 concerned education, particularly by those in detention
for several months or more. As well parents worried about the impact of
riots or breakouts or if children should witness self harm by others in
detention. Distress is also caused when friends are released and they
have to stay behind, and this had lead to some instances of behavioural
problems amongst children.
The Executive Committee
of the UNHCR has drawn attention to the following issues and concerns
- The conditions
in which many asylum seekers are detained, including serious overcrowding
in living conditions, poor sanitary and other facilities and deficiencies
in providing adequate outdoor space and recreational facilities.
- Minors being detained
or threatened with detention because of illegal entry into the country.
According to the UNHCR, "such detention can pose grave risks to
their well-being, their education and the psychological development".
The UNHCR supports
the following measures:
- That the release
of an adult member of the family be permitted to keep children out of
- That minor asylum
seekers be accorded the full scope of legal rights available to adults,
including where appropriate, the appointment of a legal guardian or
- Minors should
be detained separately from adults, unless these are their relatives,
and they should never be placed with criminals.
minors should never be detained.The UNHCR abhors the growing practice
whereby asylum seekers are detained for insufficient reasons, without
an adequate analysis of their individual circumstances or an opportunity
to have their cases reviewed 
The LHMU believes
that the federal government, as well as relevant state departments of
family and/or community services, should monitor and support children
following their release into the community.
The LHMU has noted
that services and facilities for children held in detention are hopelessly
The UNHCR has recommended
the release of an adult member of the family to keep children out of detention.
However, the Flood Report canvassed the views of women detainees and found
that many did not support this course of action as it involved being separated
from their spouse.
We believe that community
housing and other alternatives to detention should be fully explored through
the Inquiry's deliberations. Alternatives to mandatory detention include
home detention and parole or probation. In Sweden, there are 17,000 asylum
seekers and 10,000 reside outside detention centres. Children are only
detained for a maximum of 6 days.
The LHMU believes
that the Inquiry should adopt a broad approach to the task at hand, and
be primarily guided by our obligations under the UN Convention on the
Rights of the Child.
Adopting such an
approach clearly challenges the current federal policy of mandatory detention,
as it rightly should.
LHMU, Refugees are Welcome, An LHMU briefing paper on asylum seekers,
Background paper on Unauthorised Arrivals Strategy, Philip Ruddock MP,
Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, media
More recent figures have not been cited by the LHMU.
Philip Flood, AO Report of Inquiry into Immigration Detention Procedures,
February 2001, p11
This statement applies to situations where children are detained with
family members, (and where the family environment does not pose any threat
to their wellbeing).
Philip Flood AO, op cit p 30
ABC Radio National, "Stangers in Our Midst", Encounter 29/7/01
Philip Flood AO, op cit, p 30. That Report has made findings in relation
to processes and procedures for dealing with allegations of child sexual
abuse, and we trust that this Inquiry is familiar with the full report.
Philip Flood, AO op cit, p 30-31
UNHCR Detention of asylum seekers and refugees: the framework, the problem
and recommended practice (EC/49/SCCPR.13)
UNHCR Detention of asylum seekers and refugees: the framework, the problem
and recommended practice (EC/49/SCCPR.13), part IV Conclusions
Updated 9 January 2003.