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Commission Website: National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention

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Submission to the National

Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention from

Coalition for Justice for

Refugees


Ausnews Global Network, Justice

for Refugees and Global Concerns Research Centre http://www.angelfire.com/film/ausnews

C/- Edmund Rice Centre

for Justice & Community Education

90 Underwood Rd, Homebush NSW 2140.

Tel: 02 9764 1330, Fax: 029764 1743


To the committee

for the Inquiry into children in detention,

We at the coalition

for Justice for Refugees, make our submission on the belief that every

child in Australia has the right to survival, participation and development

and it is in the interest of the child and the rest of Australia that

these basic needs are meet.

We are concerned

that the psychological damage being inflicted upon these particular children

whom we have interviewed and other children in detention centres demands

serious investigation and new strategies need to be put in place to rectify

the problem immediately. Children in detention DO face extreme humiliation

and their basic human rights ARE being violated. The children are not

properly protected, nor given appropriate medical assistance, education,

nutritional food or provided acceptable living quarters. There basic needs

are not being met and the Australian government is failing to meet the

laws, which govern the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989),

which Australia is legally bound to.

The Coalition

for Justice for Refugees brings together over 42 mainstream human rights

advocacy organisations from all over the nation to further promote human

rights in the current global context.

We hope our

contribution to the Inquiry will offer some insight into the current situation

and that the Inquiry will be a strong force for change within Australian

detention centres.

Please do not

hesitate to contact us if you require further evidence.

Yours Sincerely,

Masqood

Alshams and Nicole Woodfield

(On behalf of the Coalition for Justice for Refugees.)


Submission by the Coalition

For Justice For Refugees

As Australia agreed

to be bound by the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989)

in December 1990 it is the Australian governments responsibility to insure

the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity abides by its rules.

The Convention applies

to every child in Australia regardless of nationality or immigration status

and regardless of how the child arrived in Australia. Therefore our submission

will focus on the violations of children in Australia immigration detention

centres according to the law of the Convention.

The children we have

interviewed for the purpose of our submission were released this year

from the Curtin Detention centre on a temporary protection visa. They

arrived at Christmas Island in December 1999 and spent twenty months in

the Curtin Detention centre. The family wish for their names to remain

anonymous and for the purpose of this submission we will use the terms

X and Y.

X is male and was

17-18 whilst in detention. He is now in year 11 and missed two years of

education whilst in detention. Y is female and was 14-15 whilst in detention.

Their family are Christian and left Iran for fear of persecution. DIMA

refused their initial application and so they applied to the refugee tribunal.

There were granted refugee status within 2 months of applying but remained

in detention for a further 5 months.

The following

points illustrate the violations of this Convention, which are currently

occurring.

Under the Convention,

children in detention have the right to:

1-The highest attainable standard

of health.

Q-What medical

professionals and facilities were at the centre and did they meet your

needs?

X says- "There

was one doctor but you could only go if you were dying. There is just

one bed; if you were dying you can lie on that bed too.

There were a few

nurses. Most of them a nice only a few bad ones that would say, "you

are cue jumpers, you don't deserve any more." Sometimes they said

you could drink water. Maybe water can help but not for everything. 9

months after arriving to the camp there was councillors".

Y says- "There

were three children born while I was there. At nine months the baby was

so sick and they would only give her water to drink. Water would not do

anything but they didn't care. I was really sick so much that I couldn't

even walk. But I had to go there and collect my medication. I had to get

up and go to the centre they wouldn't come. I got a virus along with all

the other kids with my brother and sister."

Q-What was the

food like?

Y says - "The

food is bad, it gives you no energy and all the bad thinking makes you

sick. Even if you were sick and couldn't move you had to line up for food.

In a week we would eat two times chicken and that's all the good food

we would eat. After three months they changed the kids food. Like under

14 they would give us fish and chips and when it was my birthday I turned

14 the lady said "why are you here your now 14 your not allowed to

eat this food" I said Ok I'll take my ticket I'll eat over there.

I'm not going to beg you please give me. They wouldn't care. You know

I was a kid I needed kids food. There were pregnant ladies who needed

more and they had to eat really bad food. It was so hard and when you

were hungry you had to wait for 7 hours after lunch for dinner and then

you had to wait 3 hours for milk it was terrible we were so hungry."

Under the Convention,

children in detention have the right to:

2-Primary education, and different

forms of secondary education should be available and accessible to every

child.

Q-What education

was provided at detention?

X says - "There

was a small school with 1-2 teachers. Not for me but for the younger ones.

There was just one group , 8, 9 years old to learn some English. But they

said because I was too old I couldn't attend those classes, I was 17.

After a few months they said they could get detainees to teach. They use

to pay them 28 points each week. To give you an example of what 28 points

is a little more than a packet of cigarettes. It is a small amount of

money $28 for one week teaching."

Y says - "At

first there was one class and then after a few months there were about

three classes. There were all kids of all levels some who didn't know

the ABC and I had to sit there and I asked, 'Why do I have to stay here?

I know all of this' and they said 'I don't care you can go if you don't

like it.' We went to these classes for one and a half years. And then

my mum started working in Welfare and pleaded with the manager of camp

to let us go. And then three of us out of about fifty were allowed to

go. We were there for a long time and they didn't want us to get angry

and so they just wanted us to go somewhere so we get happier. It felt

good but when we cam back from school all the kids wanted to know "what

happened" but I felt really sad for them and I was embarrassed and

I really wanted them to come with us. But they said they couldn't because

they didn't speak English but they did speak English."

Under the Convention,

children in detention have the right to:

3-Protection from all forms

of physical or mental violence, sexual abuse and exploitation

Q-Did you ever

see or experience any form of abuse while in detention?

Y says- "We

had to live with another family and us and 4-5 single men and they wouldn't

mind sleeping whenever they liked and they stayed up playing cards till

3-4 in the morning. Two of the detainee was sexually harassed. It was

one girl and one boy and an adult man. The man was sent to jail".

X says- "The

man knew the victims father and one night she went to a friends and she

saw a man always walking close by so she came back to her brother and

she told us he came in and said. "Hey you got nice hair, can you

buy you a rubber band" and that sort of stuff and touch her and he

goes to her brother "go and get us some water" and she said

" No, no I'll go" And started to cry and the man ran away and

straight after that he went to her father and said, "Your daughter

was crying I want to talk to her but she didn't stop crying" He lied.

But then after that he had to go to prison for 2-3 years. They took the

child victim to Broome to see a councillor once, that was all."

Under the Convention,

children in detention have the right to:

4-Practise their culture,

language and religion.

X says -"After

a few months we asked to get a minister in our camp to baptise us. And

it wasn't until the church minister came the manager of detention said

there were a few people who wanted to see you. He wouldn't have called

the church to bring a minister. We weren't even allowed to get baptised.

They said you have to get permission from Canberra. I think that's a bit

silly."

Under the Convention,

children in detention have the right to:

5-Rest and play.

Q-What activities

were offered at the centre?

X says - "First

when we went there were 15 children then after that there became more

and more and they just had to play with anything they wanted. Like breaking

sticks and follow each other. There was a basketball ground with broken

rings and damaged fences and flat balls. There were 3 balls in the camp

and we had to give the officers an ID card for a ball. After 9 months

they set up a recreation centre and I worked there organising things for

kids."

Under the Convention,

children in detention have the right to:

6-Be treated with humanity

and respect for their inherent dignity and in a manner, which takes into

account their age.

Q-How were you

treated by ACM staff and others working in the centre?

Y says - "As

I know a refugee is not meant to be in detention centres. But the officer

says you are cue jumpers, you are illegal immigrants. They didn't like

us. We tried to make them understand, but they don't believe us. I was

17."

X says -"I

felt really bad. I never lived like that in my life nor did I expect to

be treated like that. We were cleaning the floor in our room and the officers

use to come in with their dirty boots all over where we were going to

sleep. But they wouldn't care. They would knock on the door really loud

while there were little babies sleeping. They should have been quiet,

but they didn't care. The first day we didn't have shampoo to wash our

hair with after 36 hours at sea. You had to wash with the same thing as

our clothes. And then some of the nicer officers use to bring us shampoos

and special soaps secretly."

X says - "When

my friend needed to go to the medical centre I use to go with her cause

she didn't speak very good English. And she said to the nurse "I

don't like it here" and the nurses and officers use to say "what

do you say that? You like it here. We make money when you come here. You

get food, you don't have to work, and you don't have to worry about anything

at all". And that 'there' making money off 'you'. It was horrible

when they use to say that. It seems they are building detention to protect

jobs and make lots of money inside, not to protect people. It was embarrassing.

We did have a problem and that's why we come to Australia. We were told

by the nice officers to ignore those people. They said that were jealous.

And I said you know they have their citizenship, they have everything

in Australia. They can go for so much more than us.

Under the Convention,

children in detention have the right to:

7- Not be deprived of their

liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily, with detention only in conformity with

the law, as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate

period of time.

Q-How long did

you stay in detention was there a process and how did it make you feel?

Y says- "At

first month the people said it's going to be all right and people had

a bit of hope. After 3 months we had a hunger strike and we lost our hope.

They said we are all going to be here forever because they are not responding.

There were 1200 people in detention without responding. They all fill

put applications but there was still no reply. And no body left for 7

months. After 9 months they started processing visas. I think it was because

there were more people arriving and they had to make room. Then after

we were accepted we had to stay in the detention centre for 5 months.

The judge accepted our case within about 2 months of applying to the refugee

tribunal."

Under the Convention,

children in detention have the right to:

8- A standard of living adequate

for physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development.

Q-What were the

living conditions like?

X says - "We

lived in containers they didn't care if we were family or not because

there were 1200 in the camp and they said that this camp could get 2000

people in there so we were all put together. The rooms were 5 metres by

5 meters for four people. And I was so tall I couldn't fit on the floor

so sometimes the girls had to sleep on the ground. We didn't even have

blankets. We had to towels on ourselves to make ourselves warm because

we had no clothes. After they gave us second hand clothes and we had to

line up in the sun for hours and we were told not to complain that we

were cue jumpers and didn't deserve even this".

Y says - "20

people were in one dorm to live .Man and woman. We had to share another

dorm with another family with 4 men. Then after a few months we had a

single room. With bunks and sometimes we had to sleep on the floor. And

the officers would knock on our door at 6.30 in the morning and they want

us to say the number that we are here. And they use to check the numbers

in the morning, at lunch and at night-time."

Under the Convention,

children in detention have the right to:

9-The right of all children

to enjoy all the rights of the Convention without discrimination of any

kind.

Q-Did you fell

that you have been discriminated against?

X says- "it

was sad when you could see that everyone was being released and got his

or her visa. Some Afghani families where at camp for 2 weeks and they

just got there visa and just when. And we were there for 15 months and

it was just horrible".

X says- "I'd

never tell my friends that I'm a refugee, never. Cause if you tell them

that you have been in detention. They'll look at you in another way. If

they think that you arrived by aeroplane. You just arrived. I'm just saying

that I lye to my friends and its really hard. I say I arrived in Perth

and that's it. They can't understand. I'll never say that to Australian.

I think that they don't like us."

Y says- "Refugees

aren't given a chance, its just bad media but I think that a lot of Australians

do understand and welcome us. The politicians say bad things and this

reflects in the community. And so do the ACM officers in the detention

camps. When I was in Perth there was a youth group and they people always

said ' we love you and you are always welcome here'. It was really nice

there."

Conclusion

We at the coalition

for Justice for Refugees are concerned that the psychological damage being

inflicted upon these particular children and other children in detention

centres needs serious investigation and new strategies need to be put

in place to help rectify the problem immediately. Children in detention

DO face extreme humiliation and their basic human rights ARE being violated.

The children are not properly protected, nor given appropriate medical

assistance, education, nutritional food or provided acceptable living

quarters. There basic needs are not being met and the Australian government

is failing to meet the laws, which govern the Convention on the Rights

of the Child (1989), which Australia is legally bound to. Every child

in Australia has the right to survival and development and it is in the

interest of the child and the rest of Australia that these basic needs

are meet before more violations occur.

Last

Updated 9 January 2003.