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Submission to the National
Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention from
the Youth Justice Coalition
17 May, 2002
Human Rights and
Equal Opportunity Commission
GPO Box 5218
SYDNEY NSW 1042
Please accept the
following as a submission to the inquiry into children in immigration
The Youth Justice
Coalition (YJC) is a network of youth workers, children's lawyers, policy
workers and academics concerned about juvenile justice and working to
promote the rights of children and young people in Australia.
The YJC has been
active for many years, consulting with young people, writing submissions
and reports to government and providing community legal education. Examples
of the work of the YJC include the 1990 report Kids In Justice (A Blue
Print for the Nineties), Youth Street Rights - A Policy and Legislation
Review (1999) and more recently research into young people's experiences
of the Young Offender's Act in NSW (2002). The YJC contributed to the
Australian Law Reform Commission and Human Rights and Equal Opportunity
Commission inquiry on children in the legal process (1997) and has written
submissions to the NSW government on various measures increasing police
powers over children and young people.
We submit that Government
should release all children who are held in immigration detention in Australia,
to live with their families in the community while their refugee status
The case of Shayan
Baedrie, a six year old child who developed severe post traumatic stress
disorder while held in detention at Villawood provides a stark illustration
of the effect of the imprisonment of vulnerable children under the Government's
Asylum seekers who
have made their way to Australia have often experienced situations of
abuse, torture and trauma and may be forced to undertake the risky voyage
to Australia to escape these intolerable situations. Subjecting these
people, particularly children, to indeterminate periods of detention upon
their arrival can only exacerbate the negative effects of past trauma.
As a signatory to
the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Australia has agreed under
Article 3 that "In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken
by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative
authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall
be a primary consideration."
Article 2 provides
that "State parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure
that the child is protected against all forms of discrimination or punishment
on the basis of the status..of the child's parents or family members."
of children of asylum seekers and their families clearly contravenes Australia's
international obligations under this Convention. In our system of juvenile
justice, detention of children is used as a punishment of last resort
for children whose behaviour poses a serious threat to our community.
Yet in our immigration system, innocent children who bear no responsibility
for their parents' immigration status are subject to imprisonment for
periods of months or years.
The Youth Justice
Coalition has a strong commitment to the adherence of international human
rights law in Australia and we therefore take this opportunity to also
support and endorse the submission made to HREOC by the Australian Lawyers
for Human Rights.
Convenor, Youth Justice Coalition
Updated 9 January 2003.