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A last resort? - Media Pack

A last resort?

National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention

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    Media Pack - A last resort? The report of the National Inquiry inot Children in Immigration Detention

    Human Rights Commissioner Dr Sev Ozdowski at the Launch of National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention Report - A Last Resort?

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    Statements by Dr Sev Ozdowski, Human Rights


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    A last resort? - The report of the

    National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention

    Summary Guide


    Media Release - Thursday, 10 June 2004



    Four weeks ago today, a report was tabled in Federal

    Parliament that detailed numerous and repeated breaches of the human rights

    of children in our detention centres.

    The report A last resort? National Inquiry into

    Children in Immigration Detention called for the release of all children

    within four weeks of tabling. The deadline is today and there are still

    children in detention - children living in Baxter detention centre in

    South Australia, in Villawood in NSW, on Nauru, and in housing projects

    in Port Augusta.

    There is a 14 year old boy still in detention in the

    Port Augusta residential housing project. Between April 2002 and July

    2002, the boy (then detained at Woomera) attempted to hang himself four

    times, climbed into the razor wire four times, slashed his arms twice

    and went on hunger strike twice. The boy’s mother was hospitalised

    due to her own mental illness during this whole period. There is a 13

    year old child who has been seriously mentally ill since May 2002. This

    boy has regularly self-harmed. Mental health professionals have made more

    than 20 recommendations that this child be released from detention with

    his family. But he is still there.

    The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission report

    chronicles the experiences of children in detention in exhaustive detail.

    The Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs

    has not disputed the incontrovertible evidence of the devastating impact

    that indefinite detention has on the mental health of children and their

    families. Some children have been diagnosed with clinical depression,

    post traumatic stress disorder and developmental delays. Many children

    have showed symptoms like nightmares, bed-wetting, muteness, lost appetite

    and suicidal ideation. The report documents, beyond any doubt, that the

    longer children are in detention the more likely it is that they will

    develop serious mental heath problems.

    Nine out of 10 of asylum seeker children in detention

    end up calling Australia home - because they are eventually found to be

    genuine refugees.

    I call for the release, by day’s end, of all

    asylum seeker children remaining in detention. They are unlikely to abscond

    and in time most of them will be found to be genuine refugees. There is

    no valid reason for the continued detention of these children.

    I also urge the federal Parliament to examine the other

    recommendations that, if implemented, will ensure this treatment of children

    is never repeated.

    Media contact: Paul Oliver 02 9284

    9677 or 0408 469 347

    Media Release - 13 May 2004



    A Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Inquiry

    has found that children in Australian immigration detention centres have

    suffered numerous and repeated breaches of their human rights.

    In its National Inquiry into Children in Immigration

    Detention Report- A Last Resort?, tabled in Federal Parliament today,

    the Commission found Australia’s immigration detention policy has

    failed to protect the mental health of children, failed to provide adequate

    health care and education and failed to protect unaccompanied children

    and those with disabilities.

    The two-year, comprehensive Inquiry also found that

    the mandatory detention system breached the UN Convention on the Rights

    of the Child. It failed, as required by the Convention, to make detention

    a measure of “last resort”, for the “shortest appropriate

    period of time” and subject to independent review.

    The system failed to make the “best interests

    of the child” a primary consideration in detaining them and it failed

    to treat them with humanity and respect.

    Furthermore, the Government’s failure to implement

    repeated recommendations by mental health professionals to remove children

    with their parents from detention amounted to “cruel, inhumane and

    degrading treatment”.

    The Report is the result of two years of careful consideration

    of evidence and submissions. The Inquiry visited all detention centres

    in Australia and took evidence from a vast range of individuals and organisations

    - detainee children and parents, human rights advocacy groups, medical

    and legal experts, State governments, Australasian Correctional Management

    (ACM) and the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous

    Affairs (DIMIA) amongst others.

    DIMIA and ACM were offered several opportunities to

    make oral and written submissions to the Inquiry. The Inquiry treated

    DIMIA and ACM’s responses, along with all other evidence, very seriously

    in reaching its final conclusions.

    Human Rights Commissioner Dr Sev Ozdowski said it was

    time to release all children with their families from detention centres

    and residential housing projects and for steps to be taken by federal

    Parliament to ensure that no child who arrives in Australia ever suffers

    under this system again.

    “With every right there is a responsibility.

    The Government has a right to develop its migration policy, but it has

    a responsibility to uphold the conventions it has signed,” said

    Dr Ozdowski. “Remember these are children with human rights. They

    are not numbers, or acronyms.”

    “There have been more than 2000 children in immigration

    detention over the past few years. We can act to ensure we do not repeat

    the mistakes we made in their care and treatment. We have the opportunity

    to change the system to ensure these breaches do not happen again.”

    “Last Christmas, there were more than 100 children

    in detention centres and housing projects in Australia and there are still

    a significant number of children in detention now,” Dr Ozdowski

    said. “This is not ancient history. We are still abusing the rights

    of children in detention today. Children are still behind barbed wire


    The Commissioner called on the Government to release

    all remaining children within four weeks, for federal Parliament to change

    the law to ensure that detention is no longer the first and only resort

    for asylum seeker children and to ensure that decisions about the detention

    of children be made by an independent court.

    “For a country that is a passionate advocate

    of human rights internationally and is currently the Chair of the Human

    Rights Commission at the United Nations, this is a great opportunity to

    be a leader,” Dr Ozdowski said.

    “All Australians should look at these findings,

    read the examples and think of their children, their grandchildren or

    the children of their friends and ask themselves – how would I feel

    if my children were raised behind barbed wire and their human rights were

    abused?” asked Dr Ozdowski.

    “Almost 93 per cent of these families have been

    accepted as ‘genuine refugees’ so why do we lock them up for

    years behind barbed wire?” asked Dr Ozdowski.

    “The treatment of some of these children has

    left them severely traumatised and with long-term mental health problems.

    Children with emotional and physical scars will be a legacy of our mandatory

    detention policy,” the Commissioner said.

    Click on the links below to access:

    Commissioner Ozdowski will hold a press conference

    to launch the Report on Friday, 14 May at 10.30am in the Commission conference

    room (Level 8, 133 Castlereagh St, Sydney).

    Media inquiries: Paul Oliver 02 9284 9677 or 0408 469 347 or James Iliffe 02 9284


    Access the Media Pack

    The Commission has developed a detailed

    Media Pack which provides valuable background information about the National

    Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention. Click on the links to

    the right to access these resources.

    Alternatively, you can download the complete Media

    Pack in:


    © Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. Last updated 10

    June 2004.

    Comments and feedback welcome. Email: