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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 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

detention.

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

is determined.

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

immigration policies.

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."

The imprisonment

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.

Yours faithfully,

Janet Loughman

Convenor, Youth Justice Coalition

Last

Updated 9 January 2003.