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Submission to the National
Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention from
Rural Australians For Refugees,
For Refugees Wangaratta Branch is not directly involved with children
or adults in detention centres. Therefore our submission is very brief
and comes from the desire to add to the growing voice of Australian citizens.
We do not support the current mandatory detention of refugees and asylum
seekers that is the present policy of government. We are not legally trained
and write very much as a part of the rural community of Australia.
As a basic premise,
children should not be detained, children should be with their parents,
therefore parents and children should be integrated into the community
at the earliest possible opportunity post health checks. These children
almost certainly have faced some degree of trauma, if not before arriving
in Australia or a pacific island detention camp then certainly after.
Their physical and social health needs should be addressed as a matter
of urgency. If a child is to be healthy it is also necessary that their
environment is healthy, thus their parents and community's physical and
social health needs also need to be urgently addressed.
for Refugees Wangaratta Branch welcomes the 4000 people currently detained
and look forward to their release from custody and urgent integration
into the Australian community not on Temporary Protection Visas but as
much needed citizens. From a purely pragmatic standpoint we need immigrants
if for no other reason than to even out the population dip caused by the
post war population boom. There is no need to discuss the benefits to
this country of immigration they are well documented. Families need certainty;
the ability to be able to plan for a life is essential to the mental health
and well being of not only the asylum seekers but also the community they
ultimately become part of.
of the child and his/her family of their refugee status or asylum seeker
status is made, it is vital that the "fair and public hearing"
be supported by timely and trained legal assistance and advocacy. Obviously
to "enable a child to participate in decision making affecting her
or him" it is essential to understand what the decisions are and
how they are made, this requires highly skilled advocacy and time. Clearly
this should not ultimately be a matter for Ministerial humanitarian discretion;
the onus of refugee determination should be upon Australia not upon the
persons involved. These people should be considered refugees in need of
a humane response, until Australia can conclusively prove they are not.
If they are not, then they should be allowed to apply to become immigrants.
They should be able to make application from Australia, stay in Australia
throughout the determination process and be provided with a full range
of assistance to ensure physical and social health ie, legal, appropriate
housing, education, employment medical treatment etc.
for unaccompanied minors are vital and the choice of these guardians must
be a very careful process and should maintain maximum cultural safety
for these minors. Every effort should be made to locate their family and
support family reunion where possible. A conflict of interest exists if
a parliamentary Minister is the Guardian of people he has described in
terms that indicate he has a negative view of them before they even arrive
in the country.
To people not working
within the legislative framework the definition "owing to well-founded
fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership
of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country
of his (sic) nationality and is unable, or owing to such fear, is unwilling
to avail himself (sic) of the protection of that country; or who, not
having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual
residence as a result of such events, is unable, or owing to such fear,
is unwilling to return to it." seems quite clear and it is very difficult
for us to understand how the people who have risked everything to come
to this country do not meet this definition. As the "reasonable person"
ie a mixed group of rural Victorians, it is prima facie very difficult
to understand what the problem is with the release of people from detention
centers. Even those people destined to be returned to a country when a
country is found that will take them should not be living in places such
as Woomera or Curtin let alone children. We note the experience of a local
Shepparton psychologist who recently spent a month at Woomera. During
her work there she saw two children make serious suicide attempts one
was 11 and one was 13. She saw evidence of the harm being done to children
by having parents with nothing to do, and no discernable future, the extremely
high levels of self harm occurring, far above the normal prison population.
This is life long harm and it is difficult to not see this as a transgression
of the rights of the child as not having serious long-term consequences
and it would appear that compensation is owed to these people.
In conclusion, we
call for Australia to abandon mandatory detention and urgently integrate
these children and their community's into the wider community in a part
of Australia of their choice with a full range of support services and
Updated 9 January 2003.