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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

the Conference of Leaders

of Religious Institutes




of Religious in Work with Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Australia


on Child Development and Education





and Girl Children


practices in detention


Role of the Parent in Detention Centres


and suggestions

How can the

baptized claim to welcome Christ if they close the door to the foreigner

who comes knocking? " If anyone has the world's goods and sees

his brothers or sisters in need, yet closes his heart against them,

how does God's love abide in him?"

(1 Jn 3:17)

Pope John

Paul II, Message for World Migration Day 2000, no. 5

The Exercise

of the right to asylum proclaimed by the Universal Declaration of

Human Rights (Art 14.1) should be recognized everywhere and not obstructed

with deterrent and punitive measures. A person applying for asylum

should not be interned unless it can be demonstrated that he or she

represents a real danger, or there are compelling reasons to think

that he or she will not report to the competent authorities for due

examination of his or her case. More over, such people should be helped

with access to work and to a just and rapid legal procedure.


A Challenge to Solidarity", n 13, pontifical Council Cor Unum

and Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant



people have the right to seek and enjoy in other countries asylum

from persecution"
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 14(1)

"In every

situation affecting the interests of a child or a family, the interests

of the child must come before all others"
Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 3


widest possible protection and assistance should be accorded to the

family, which is the natural and fundamental group unit of society"
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,

Article 10(1)

"No one

shall be subject to arbitrary arrest or detention"
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article


"No one

shall be subjected to torture, or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment

or punishment"
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article



states shall not impose penalties, on account of their illegal entry

or presence on refugees who, coming from a place where their life

or freedom was threatened…are in their territory without authorisation…"
Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, 1951, Article



Australia's commitment to these conventions and to the foundations

of the Common Law, The Conference of Leaders of Religious Institutes

promotes the following principles as a necessary beginning to any

debate on an Humanitarian and Refugee program in Australia:

  • Australia

    is part of the international community and has undertaken its responsibilities

    towards refugees voluntarily and in the spirit of humanitarianism;

  • As a wealthy

    and stable nation, we share a responsibility for the weakest in

    the world community;

  • Australia

    is entitled to protect its territorial integrity in ways that are

    consistent with its international obligations and undertakings,

    and its domestic law and legal principles;

  • No refugee

    or asylum seeker may be subject to punishment, mistreatment or other

    human rights violation to deter others from seeking asylum in Australia;

  • Refugees and

    Asylum seekers who are intercepted on their way to Australia will

    be treated with respect for their dignity and not be subjected to

    physical violence or threats of physical violence;

  • Under no circumstances

    will a refugee or asylum seeker be diverted to a country that is

    not party to the 1951 convention or major human rights treaties

    and which cannot support their presence with dignity;

  • Aid funds

    will not be diverted from development projects to underpin the detention

    and processing of asylum seekers in other countries

  • Non citizens

    in Australia will only be detained after an individual assessment

    of their public security or safety risk. All detention must be reviewable

    by a court and must be for the shortest time possible.

  • Any asylum

    seeker in detention is entitled to be treated humanely with respect

    for his or her human dignity. The standards in detention will be

    no less than criminal prisoners are entitled to.

  • Asylum seekers

    who are accepted as Convention refugees are entitled to family reunion.

  • Asylum seekers

    accepted as refugees will be granted permanent visas.

Research Methods

The Conference

of Leaders of Religious Institutes NSW represents over 4000 religious

in NSW. We also work closely with the more than 20,000 other religious

working in many areas, including pastoral, educational and social

work with detained asylum seekers and with refugees and asylum seekers

in various Australian communities.

In preparation

for a submission to HREOC's National Enquiry into Children in Detention,

CLRI (NSW), in co-operation with the Australian Conference of Leaders

of Religious Institutes, sent a questionnaire to religious all over

Australia, asking for stories and experiences relating to the terms

of reference of the enquiry. With the written responses to the questionnaire

and several telephone interviews, CLRI's report has come from the

combined experience of over 20 people who currently work with or who

have in the recent past worked with asylum seekers in Australia. The

input of several others, who have worked around the world in refugee

camps and settlements, has also been sought by way of best practice

contributions. Unless otherwise noted, all comments relate to experience

in Australia's detention centres.

Included in this

submission are the suggestions and experience of teachers, social

workers and nurses, some with over 30 years experience in their fields,

and many with experience working with refugees or displaced people

both in Australia and in other parts of the world. This submission

includes input from people who work in or have recently worked in

Villawood, Maribyrnong, Woomera, Port Headland, and Curtin Detention

Centres and in settlement programs for released refugees and community

asylum seekers in Sydney and Melbourne. Several participants invited

released refugees and their children into their homes to assist with

the first months of settlement in Australia.

It is indicative

of the climate surrounding Australian Immigration Detention Centres

that almost none of the questionnaire respondents were willing to

have their names or positions released or published with this submission.

Most also requested that their stories be published without the addition

of which centre the asylum seekers were detained in. It was explained

to researchers that not only did asylum seekers justly fear the impact

on their cases from publicity, but Centre workers, including religious

volunteers, also risked loosing their positions or access to the Centres

should it become known that they had participated in this enquiry.



of Religious in Work with Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Australia

General Effect

of Detention on Children

One respondent,

who worked with children in Hong Kong and Malaysia's refugee detention

centres explained:


emotions were frozen at the ages they were when they arrived. I knew

people who were 20 but who arrived at 14 - and the dream that they

had at 19 was the same as the one they had when they arrived. They

had no concept of living a life now, only of the future. Their emotions

were more like 14 year old kids."

Several respondents

pointed out that children in Australia's detention centres have experienced

some level of trauma or upheaval even before arriving in Australia,

which necessarily leaves them fewer resources for dealing with the

Detention Centre environment they meet upon arrival. The experience

of conflict, flight, separation from other family and friends, life

in refugee camps and the final ocean crossing to Australia can only

add to the stress of the Detention Centres themselves.


my previous experience, in Hong Kong and Malaysia: The children

in Detention would not do well in school. I would talk to them and

they would say 'I am sad'. I could not count the kids who said to

me 'I will die - there is nothing for me'. Many of them would have

nightmares, and they were afraid about going to sleep. They were

preoccupied by the processing of their claims and many of them just

couldn't function beyond that - they were emotionally blocked…totally

pre-occupied by it, and influenced by the depression of the adults.

Waves of depression would go through the camp. In preparation for

return, the children would at first refuse to talk about their families

and their homes, but they would not talk about home at first - they

would say that they did not have families."

One teacher explained

her experience of using videos to instruct new arrivals to an Australian



a video showed heavy seas, the children lapsed into complete stillness

because quite a few had been literally plucked from their sinking


Even the daily

routine, without the drama of protests getting out of hand, causes

difficulties for some children:


Child is different - but in Detention they are all conforming to

the same routine, through locked and un-locked gates, and surrounded

by razor-wire 24 hours a day. A lot depends on the parent/child

bond, and if the child has both parents with them, which is quite

often not the case. The detainees are not allowed to lock their

rooms, so one small boy (6 yrs) was frequently found in people's

accommodation areas….The child was resented by some older detainees,

and labeled a thief… He was an intelligent child, in unfortunate


At another Centre:


it is difficult to say that behaviors such as refusing to eat, night

terrors, regression to bed wetting, temper tantrums, and in the

older children, insecurity, are due solely to detention, facets

of detention cannot be helpful. Factors such as communal meal areas

where meals are served at definite times; no regard for cultural

dietary needs; no regard for children's likes and dislikes; no possibility

for mothers to prepare food for their children are detrimental for

children. Other factors such as nighttime security checks, crowded

living arrangements and lack of trauma intervention do not help

sleep problems"

At Villlawood:


of the turmoil within the centre, the children 'walk" sometimes

all night (This is especially true for the children who are without

families). They wander whenever there is no particular event or duty

for them to perform. There is little privacy for them, even within

their family group."

Entry into the

Community and the resumption of "normal life"

The trauma of

the Centre will not remain there once children and their families

leave. Respondents who work with refugees once they have been released

to the community explain:


pattern of life is turned up side down. They try to sleep during

the day time and stay awake at night. This seems to help them stay

sane. Once they are out of the Centre it so hard to get back to

a normal way of living"

"Young children who are detained seem quickly to settle into

a normal childhood pattern when released, even as early as after

a couple of weeks. I wonder about long term effects. Children from

about 7 - 8 upwards can be very traumatized; to follow these children

through would be a worthwhile study."

One respondent

shared her home with a family recently released:


little boy was shy, afraid and withdrawn when he came to live with

us. He couldn't speak English - all he wanted to do was watch TV

- All night! I remember asking him to come for a walk around the

block. The freedom frightened him. He didn't want to move outside

our house. He has buried his nightmares deep inside himself and

I wonder when they will surface."

The prejudices

of the Australian community fanned by government and media also affect

the ability of former detainees to feel at home in Australia:

" I

know 6 high school children who deny to their peers the knowledge

that they have been through detention. They say they migrated to

Australia. When the "Tampa" affair was on, one child told

me they had a discussion at school about the incident, but she did

not join in the discussion, saying she 'would not want her friends

to know she was a refugee'; she wanted to bury that experience and

not have to discuss it with the others."


Effect on

Child Development and Education

One former Detention

Centre teacher found that the management of the Centre and the experience

of the children once they were there affected her students:


the parents of many were also in the Centre, the authorities deemed

it necessary for me to have a [Security] Officer accompanying me

when crossing public areas. The [children's] main feeling was FEAR,

with frustration second. Hunger strikes and jumping off the second

story were tried [in front of the children]. With a guard escorting

us, I used to take the children beach strolling and to the local

swimming pool, [yet] fear and frustration were very evident."

Educating teenagers

in Detention Centres has not been a priority - in Woomera in recent

months, students have been receiving 4 sessions of education per week,

each of one hour's duration. A teacher in Port Headland in 1996 explained

that her classes


with over 40, but many teenagers soon dropped out and spent the

day idling. Those who stayed responded well to education…"

Even for those

allowed out of the Centre to study at the local school, Detention

followed them to this supposedly 'normal' environment. At Curtain:


of them were allowed to attend high school outside detention [but

they] still have a degree of anger to work through; at the time

of life when they should have been seeking personal independence,

they were being escorted to school by a security guard."

In Victoria:


I was visiting Maribyrnong, the children I knew there were not allowed

to go to school at that time. When they were allowed to go to school

they were taken in a police vehicle, and collected again in the

afternoon - so not in the normal way. They were thrilled to be going

to school, but they couldn't go on excursions, and they wanted their

parents to see their teachers. They couldn't enroll them in school…"

This pre-occupation

with security and discipline apparently extended so far in one detention

centre that a 13 year old girl who was top of her class at the local

school was prevented from attending school after she participated

in a hunger strike. She has been in detention for over two years and

has been refused refugee status, but Australia has no forced return

policy with her government, so she and her family are effectively

in permanent detention. She is now refused education because she protested

this situation with the only method she had at her disposal - her

own body.

From a teacher

of many years in the classroom in Australia, and with experience working

with refugee children in several places in Asia, as well as in an

Australian Immigration Detention Centre:


am at present working in a school where there are a number of children

in attendance who have been in the detention centres in Australia...

These children are very far behind their classmates in all areas

of education. Of course, some of them had disrupted schooling in

their own countries. That is the nature of what it is to be a refugee

and have to escape to a safe country. However, keeping them locked

up for several months without the benefit of normal schooling didn't

help them either. Children need continuity in their learning when

they are young or they quickly forget what they have learned.


was my experience in detention centres overseas that schools were

among the first services that UNHCR sought to provide for children

in refugee camps. The reason for this was a well known fact that

attending school each day was an important factor in establishing

a regular, safe routine for children. Besides being very important

for the education of the children, it served as a normalizing routine

which the children could relate to their former lives - in cases

where they had previously attended school, and for other children

it helped to keep their minds off the sadness and difficulties that

were affecting them in their other part of their lives in detention."

Several respondents

teach in areas with both "community asylum seekers", those

who lived outside the centres while seeking asylum, and with refugees

newly released from detention. They compare the two groups of students:


not detained learn easier; more contented, accept Australia's rules

and regulations"

From a teacher

working to assist refugees in settling into Australian schools:


seems apparent that children from detention centres do have major

problems…the children who are refugees are wild and aggressive

kids. I am not certain about what their experiences are…because

they have been displaced, their schooling has been interrupted or

they have not had any schooling at all. UNHCR only worries about

them up to Primary Level."

Beyond the classroom,

but from a trained teacher and pastoral worker:


environment of the detention centre is not conductive to normal

development, either socially or educationally. The children see

nothing of everyday life outside the centre. There is no celebration

of the children's culture; rather it is a source of humiliation.

they see no evidence of tolerance or acceptance of multiculturalism."


Detention appears

to affect teenagers in a particular way. One respondent explained

that "Older children are more aware of all the legal implications

of trying to get a visa," and they often have the added burden

of acting as translator for their parents. A community worker explains

an effect of one child's experience:


story that always stays with me is about a girl of about 13. She

and her family had escaped from a country where her father had been

imprisoned and tortured. The mother and four children went into

hiding. This girl was the oldest. They managed to escape the country.

[After release from Detention], the girl was at a school where I

taught and was put in a class which she was old for but this was

because of her lack of English. The girl was quite tall and well

developed. I guess it was expected that she would behave according

to her age…This girl had been asked to take on great responsibility.

She had been called to be an adult before her time. I used to take

her to a group after school. As we were packing up one night, I

went to look for her. She was in the doll's corner playing with

a doll like a 5 year old might play. The other children had gone

home. She had the freedom to experience childhood which she had

missed out on. I am sure that if the other girls her age had seen

her they would have teased her. She needed the freedom to experience

what it was like to be a child."

These difficulties

are compounded by the status of teens in Australian society. One respondent

explained that she knew teenagers who complained because they could

not earn a living as they would in their own countries. These young

people found it hard that they should be locked away at a time when

they could be so economically valuable to their families, and, indeed,

starting their own families. In response to the question about teenagers,

one respondent explained that one couple she worked with were classed

by Detention Centre staff as teenagers, because of their age, although

they were the parents of two small children.



One respondent

worked with unaccompanied minors in camps in Asia, as well as in Australia's

Detention Centres. These experiences relate to her time in Australia:

  • All children

    in detention are affected negatively and some of the issues are

    the same as for unaccompanied minors. However, the adverse affects

    on the latter are much worse in my own opinion from working with

    them over many years.

  • Unaccompanied

    children become very depressed and anxious. They tell you every

    day that they are sad and this shows in a lack of energy, and disinterest

    in what is going on around them.

  • They worry

    about their own safety and also about that of their parents back


  • They show

    psychosomatic symptoms of illnesses, are restless and have problems

    concentrating. Some refuse to participate in any activities around


  • They feel

    they lack affection, sometimes becoming very attached to a kind

    worker at the centre, or others not relating to anyone at all.

  • They feel

    they lack help and guidance and have no-one to stand up for them

    if they face problems with others

  • They suffer

    from poor sleep and nightmares and often have intrusive memories

    during the day as well. The effect of their living conditions make

    it difficult for children to make decisions"

Boy and Girl


Without being

conclusive, two responses to the question about boy and girl children

point to a variety of experience, and to the possibility that this

is an issue that needs the input of educational and development experts:


boys are more active and can use up energy chasing each other -

which is some sort of outlet. Girls seem to cling to the parent"

"Boys often become very aggressive and sometimes join gangs

to survive. They can bully other inmates. Girls seem to become more

introverted and quiet.. They are often afraid, especially of anything

new or different."


Security practices

in detention

At Port Headland:


men usually went around in pairs, day and night. The children were

afraid when they appeared. During hunger strikes, food was always

made ready and parents made sure their children ate. Few, very few,

children were seen on the 2nd story during those demonstrations."

At Woomera:


does not appear to be any provision to protect children from harm

during their times of unrest. To do so is a matter left to parents

and guardians"

At Maribyrnong:


was a riot of sorts and several men damaged equipment such as computers,

televisions and other furniture. This happened at night and was

accompanied by a great deal of noise…The mothers [told] me

later, how afraid the children and they had been, as they were locked

up their own area just next to the area where it was all happening

(in the same building). They were powerless to reassure the children

that they were safe as they really were very afraid themselves,

no knowing what was really happening, whether the place would be

burned down, if the violence would escalate and overflow into their

area. Although they tried to reassure the children, they couldn't

hide their own fear."

At Villawood:


presence of security personnel are akin to police or army in the

children's minds. The constant roll calls and difficult interaction

between the security officers and the detainees is a source of distress

to the children. They have had a severe traumatic time in their

country of origin, the transit countries or camps, and then to be

held in detention centres causes untold harm to their well being

- physically, mentally, emotionally."

The Role

of the Parent in Detention Centres

Detention Centres

are set up like prisons, where ACM officials act as prison guards,

maintaining not only security but also strict regimes for all parts

of life. Regular "musters", room searches, interrogations

and even body searches, combined with lack of personal freedom, act

to infantalise adult detainees. The long term effect of these practices

on adults has been addressed by mental health professionals, but the

effect on children detained with their parents and on the family structures

of asylum seekers can be seen by many.


(hence children) no longer live together under a family structure,

but are housed and fed among other inmates en masse. The family

has no privacy, or space for itself, is unable to make decisions

about the time or eating, the type of food, when or where it will

eat. There can be no secrets from others as there is nowhere for

people to have a private discussion. The parents are no longer the

decision makers and they cannot protect their children from what

is happening around them…"


detention, there is obvious difference between detainees and "outsiders"

- staff and visitors. While the staff have a difficult position

to uphold, they, not the parent have the authority to speak, this

must impact on the child"

When parents

become depressed in detention, their children are quick to pick up

the change and to respond themselves.

  • Discipline

    is made very difficult for the parents as often in detention, the

    children "belong to everyone". Perhaps the greatest problem

    for the children is not being able to understand the difference

    in their parents - parents before they are stressed; they become

    short with the children; weeping; depressed; worried; maybe guilty.

    Older children often have the burden of being the translator for

    the parents."

  • The one subject

    and aim is to get a visa, and leave detention. Quite often the parents

    are depressed - this impacts on the child. Depends on the length

    of stay - and the parents' ability to assist the child."

  • Because parents

    are depressed by their situation, they often lose interest. As a

    consequence, children become out of control"

  • Parents sometimes

    become so depressed that they are unable to care for their children

    either physically or emotionally. Spouses if they are together,

    begin to quarrel over even small things, because they feel so helpless.

    This situation is very unsettling for children. Children begin to

    defer to camp authorities for what they can and can't do and their

    parent's authority and confidence is even further eroded."

The effect of

this break down in the parent - child relationship can continue long

after the family is released into the Australian community, even if

the family is detained for a relatively short period.


was a 14 year old girl in Villawood with her mother and father for

8 months. In Villawood, she was well liked, did well in the school,

spent a lot of time with her mother and often acted as translator

for her parents, especially her mother who was often not well. Her

mother reported that A lost weight and could not eat the food, and

that she did not sleep well. She appeared very pale and anxious.

On leaving Villawood, the three settled in a unit and A went to

school. For the first year as the parents tried to "become

parents" again and lay down some limits to A's activities,

A began to have temper tantrums; resented being offered traditional

food; refused to eat; was ill often; was disciplined at school as

she tried to "put down" her peers and began having nightmares.

Both her parents were will during the first year and suffered from

some marital disharmony. All three refused help from STARTTS. Initially

they blamed all their woes on their war in their country from which

they had been forced to escape. Later (about 2 years after detention),

they began to speak about that experience as being "too shocking"

on top of the war and as the cause of many problems."


and suggestions


and Comments from Questionnaire Respondents

Respondents were

asked to make suggestions as to how the Detention Centres could be

made more appropriate for children and their families, and as to how

the reception system itself could be changed. Their responses follow:


believe that the detention centres should be closed. I wold agree

that a period of six weeks may be necessary for documentation but

after that time, the refugees should be permitted to live in the

community while their cases are being processed. In the short time

they are held in detention, families should have access to cooking

facilities and the kinds of food the family normally requires so

that they can prepare suitable food for their children at the times

the children need to be fed. There is no need for razor wire and

large fences. Children should have access to playing areas where

there is shade, trees, grass and simple playing equipment. Families

should be allowed more privacy."

"Family supports are needed as undue pressures come with being

detained. Family counselors are needed. Parents need to be told

of Australia's requirements in parenting, not just relying on customs

and word of mouth"

"I believe that families should live as a unit, in SEPARATE

homes rather than in large accommodation areas, and that they be

given accompanied outings reasonably often - otherwise it is a tough

strain on the nerves and sanity"

"I find it hard to suggest models for anything IN DETENTION.

The bottom line is that no one who has not committed a crime should

be in detention. If we lock up children, it will harm them."

On Education

and Training


has to be fluid - depending on arrivals. Teachers across all IDCs

should meet regularly with other teachers to work on a curriculum.

Depending on numbers of children - they should attend local schools

as has happened in Maribyrnong. Ed. committee across all IDCs"


believe that effective classes in manual arts, cooking, painting,

etc, ought to be given to offset boredom and possibly to serve as

a starting point for those given release. Of course, English classes

should be mandatory"


children (especially in detention) could have story telling, music,

and some theatre to distract them from the persistent dreary surroundings

they are living in"


should learn about the cultural background of their students - our

assumptions are not always appropriate…the children need to

learn basic things - such as learning at a desk, or what to do with

pencil and paper."

One respondent

spoke about the need to assist children to break through the walls

they built around their trauma. She explains some of their formal

and informal needs:


Melbourne, they go to a language centre for 6 months. Many of these

children have had no schooling, or interrupted schooling…after

6 months, they are put into a class of their age level. A 14 year

old, without proper schooling, in a class with children of the same

age. It isn't going to work. It is a recipe for disaster.


need bilingual schooling in preparation for the general system.

There are adult aids, who speak their languages, who could help

the teachers…and if they had specialised schooling for two

years, then they could catch up. They need to have guidance officers,

welfare officers who are there to help with the difficulties. These

kids will have to have emotional, traumatic problems, and yet we

are not dealing with them. Yet we will wonder in 5 years why they

are getting into gangs. Those problems are not being dealt with.

We need to put into place proper educational systems. Our own kids

find it hard enough to keep up with school."

A respondent

with experience in the East Timorese centres:


teacher should understand some of the possible [mental health] patterns,

or the way that some people deal with trauma or stress…there

needs to be someone committed to the program and hired for the children

- some cultural background is necessary. There can be a sense of

shame attached to mental health issues."

On the trial

at Woomera to take women and children out of the Centre

A respondent

who lives near Woomera:

[The refugees

are] "worried about parental relationships: mother/father;

father/child. Most women in their own country do not have this liberty

and find it difficult. Local people in Woomera are not friendly

to the idea. It is a small country town with insufficient services."


are almost "cemented" together. That is the whole family

group as most others have been killed. The bond is so strong and

they dread to be separated. Separation is not the answer"


Difficulty would be the mother's lack of English - if the child

becomes the interpreter it can put responsibility onto a young child."


view of my experience I strongly recommend education OUTSIDE the

centres. If in school with children from the Australian community,

the attitudes of the latter need to be assessed. Children seeking

asylum in Australia need to be protected from further rejection.

The immediate, urgent, need is to learn English and understand Australian

culture and practices. This is what will help immediately. Other

aspect of education can be addressed in programs for the children

after they have left the centre. [Also], school aged children need

to be in school at least 4 hours per day."

One community

worker explained that for at least one family released on a similar

scheme, the children "hated visiting [the father] in detention

and had lots of behavioural reactions after each visit."

The Conference

of Leaders of Religious Institutes Proposes

CLRI is in the

process of completing a full alternative humanitarian program policy,

which will be launched in time for the 2002 DIMIA Review. The basic

principles of the policy are now clear, however, and form a basis

for the following suggestions.


  • When detention

    is considered necessary for people who have not yet been immigration

    cleared, it must be limited to the shortest time necessary to determine

    applicants' identities, basic claims, health needs, and prima facie

    security risk.

  • CLRI believes

    that these initial screening and admission needs require no more

    than 30 days.

  • All asylum

    seekers must be released from detention at the end of that 30 days,

    unless there are reasonable grounds for believing that they pose

    a risk to the security or safety of the Australian community.

  • All asylum

    seekers must be presumed eligible for release

  • Any asylum

    seeker detained beyond 30 days must have immediate access to review

    of their detention, in order for the detaining authority to establish

    the reasonableness of the belief in their risk to the community.

    The lack of identity documents does not constitute reasonable grounds.

  • Any detention

    must be within easy access of a major Australian city.

  • Any detention

    of Asylum seekers must be separate from "removal" and

    "deportation" detainees.


  • At all times,

    families must be kept together. When the detention of one family

    member is unavoidable, families must be given a choice as to how

    and where they will reside. The responsible authorities will ensure

    that the family is assisted in settling within easy distance of

    the detained family member. Should a separated family have relatives

    in an Australian city and wish to live with or near them, the detained

    family member shall be kept as close as possible to that city.

  • Should families

    with children require detention, their cases must take priority

    over all others for speedy processing.

  • Should any

    children remain with their families in detention, they must be released

    to the community for schooling as soon as possible. Whether or not

    the children are enrolled in school, families with children shall

    be allowed to leave the detention centre regularly for social and

    recreational visits.

  • Should any

    families remain in detention, or in any government provided residential

    facility, the parents shall have complete control over their children,

    within the limits of Australian child protection standards. This

    includes the provision of facilities to allow family meals and children's

    occasional eating at the times and in the manner most appropriate

    to the family.

  • Families in

    detention, or in any Government facilities, must be given separate

    living quarters, where they can find privacy and intimacy.

  • The Woomera-style

    women and children release program must not be the model for future

    detention alternatives. After the trauma of flight and travel to

    get to Australia, asylum seekers must be allowed and supported in

    their need for a united family unit. Children, in particular, need

    as normal as possible an environment upon arrival in Australia,

    and to meet this, Australian Government practice must treat the

    retention of family bonds and supports as paramount.


  • Upon release,

    all asylum seekers must be given access to settlement and social

    services at least at the level of permanent residents. All social

    services must be provided through main-stream Government bodies

    such as Centrelink, Medicare, the Department of Housing. Settlement

    services and assistance shall still be provided through community

    programs, partly funded by Government.

  • Centrelink

    offices in areas densely populated with refugees should have a designated

    person to help with refugee and asylum seeker clients, as is already

    being done in some parts of Sydney.

  • All asylum

    seekers and refugees living in the community shall have full work

    and study rights immediately upon release.

  • All refugees

    must be granted permanent protection visas, regardless of their

    mode or path of travel or entry to Australia.

  • People found

    by Australia to be eligible for refugee status, or for an on-shore

    humanitarian grounds visa, must be immediately eligible to apply

    for family reunion with their immediate family members and dependents.


May 1, 2002

The Conference

of Leaders of Religious Institutes

72 Rosebery Ave,

(PO Box 259)

Rosebery, NSW 1445

Ph: (02) 9663 2199



Updated 9 January 2003.