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National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention


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Submission to the National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention from

the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, Monash University

Detention, Children and Asylum Seekers: a comparative study*


United Kingdom




Detention, Children and Asylum Seekers: a comparative study*


This paper contains a comparison of the policies and procedures of Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada for dealing with children as asylum seekers. This comparison reveals two main differences.

  • First, Australia is unique in having a mandatory detention policy which applies to all asylum seekers without distinction. Section 196 of the Migration Act 1958 (Cth) mandates detention for all persons - child or adult - arriving in Australia without a valid visa, and prevents release from detention otherwise than for removal, deportation or because a valid visa has been issued. The other countries do have some limited detention practices which may include adults and children whose immigration to those countries is unauthorised. But in all the other countries there is a presumption that children are in a special category and should be released into the community as soon as practicable. In all those other countries, specific policies are being developed to recognise the needs of child asylum seekers both in detention (if any) and upon release.
  • The second major difference is in the nature of the problem. In Australia most children in detention have come with their families and they include a substantial number of very young children. The forced migration of whole families, including children, to Australia is a recent phenomenon which is a direct result of the temporary protection visa (TPV) regime which was introduced in 1999.[1] As it does not allow family reunion it has led to an increase in the number of families coming to Australia to seek asylum. By contrast in the other countries efforts are concentrated on a marked upsurge in unaccompanied or 'separated' child asylum seekers who tend to be adolescents. There is a global trend to send the youngest members of families away to give them a chance to survive in a new country - often it is the case that the parents are no longer alive. Whilst there is also an increase in such unaccompanied child asylum seekers in Australia, the policies do not distinguish the needs of the two groups, accompanied and unaccompanied child asylum seekers.


Current procedures

Each person whose arrival in Australia is unauthorised is placed in mandatory and non-reviewable detention, regardless of age. This includes children whether they are part of a family or unaccompanied minors. Detention continues until such time as the individual is either recognised as a refugee and granted a protection visa or removed from the country. [2] Under new legislation passed in September 2001, people arriving at 'excised offshore places' are unable to apply for any valid visa and may be removed to a "declared country", such a Papua New Guinea or Nauru. [3] "Excised offshore places" include the Ashmore and Cartier Islands, Christmas Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands and '…other parts of Australia's territory which may be prescribed in the future under the Migration Act 1958 (Cth)." [4] Otherwise the legislation provides for a hierarchy of temporary visas depending upon how entry to Australia was effected: only those who come directly from the country of persecution to Australia are entitled to a permanent protection visa. [5]

In Australia there has been an increase in the number of families coming to Australia as a direct result of the introduction of the 3 year temporary protection visa (TPV) in 1999 which does not allow family reunion. [6]

Treatment of children whose arrival in Australia is unauthorised

The mandatory detention policy of the Australian government does not distinguish between children and adults. According to the Minister for Immigration [7] as of 1 February 2002, 365 children were being held in Australian detention facilities, 13 of whom were classified as unaccompanied minors. Expressed as a percentage of onshore asylum seekers during this period (about 12,000) this is 4.85%. The South Australian Department of Human Services, through its Family and Youth Services division, provides alternative care for a further 9 unaccompanied minors. In addition, one unaccompanied minor has been issued with bridging visa and has been placed in foster care. [8] As recently as November 2001, however, there were 582 children in immigration detention, 53 of whom were unaccompanied. [9] The Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, Philip Ruddock MP, attributes the decrease in numbers of children in detention to: the drop in numbers of unauthorised arrivals; an increase in people being released from detention, 'particularly unaccompanied minors; and minors turning 18 years of age while in detention.' [10]

As a matter of policy, the Government considers it is more important to keep children with family members or people of the same nationality than it is to release them from detention on a bridging visa into the community:

'…it is in the best interests of the child for them to remain with their parents, family or fellow country persons. As such, children are held in detention with their parents so that they can remain in family groups.' [11]

This policy is maintained despite recent findings of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) that '…detention is not an appropriate environment for children.' [12]



The immigration detention centres are run by Australasian Correctional Management (ACM), a private company, and are monitored by the Department Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA) which maintains an official presence at each of the centres. The standard of living conditions in immigration detention centres and services provided to detainees are outlined in the Immigration Detention Standards (IDS), developed by the Department in consultation with the Commonwealth Ombudsman's office. The IDS places special emphasis '…on the sensitive treatment of the detention population which may include torture and trauma sufferers, family groups, children and the elderly, persons with a fear of authority, and [refugees]. [13]' Provision of services, however, is not unconditional. The Minister notes that the detention centres '…rely on the cooperation of detainees to ensure the smooth running and good order of the centres'. [14]

The IDS states that detained children and adults are to be provided with education services, including English language instruction, cultural classes and sporting activities. Health care is to be provided soon after individuals are detained. Dental and hospital services are to be provided where required and medical care is available around the clock. Qualified chefs, in consultation with dieticians, prepare three meals per day. Detainees can assist in formulating culturally appropriate menus through the Detainee Representative Committees. Milk is to be available for children to drink. Recreational facilities such as playgrounds, toys and games are to be provided. 'Individually tailored management plans' are to be developed for all unaccompanied minors, taking into consideration special needs such as educational and social requirements. [15]

Notwithstanding the existence of these standards there is evidence that detention is having a damaging effect on children's mental and physical wellbeing. Like adults, children may be detained for prolonged periods while their asylum claims are being processed. [16] HREOC officers, who recently completed a fact-finding mission at Woomera Immigration Reception and Processing Centre (IRPC), the largest of the immigration detention centres, found that the 236 children detained there were living in 'an atmosphere of despair…due to the length of time in detention and the concomitant uncertainty over status'. [17] As a response, the children had engaged in various acts of self-harm including lip sewing, slashing, ingestion of shampoo, attempted hanging and threats of self-hurt. [18]

The existence of IDS standards does not guarantee that they are adhered to. Another HREOC finding related to schooling:

'HREOC officers also observed that despite ACM's efforts to provide schooling opportunities for the children, this is confined to those aged twelve and under, and is not comparable in any way to the education received by Australian twelve year olds. There are a number of children over 12 years of age who virtually receive no schooling at all. All children are taught in the one classroom. Education is provided for a total of only two hours a day, four days a week.' [19]


Alternative care

DIMIA makes reference to three types of 'alternative care', two of which concern unaccompanied children whilst the third provides for children and their mothers. Of the three types of care, one is truly an alternative to detention although it currently involves only one child in Australia, one is ambiguous at to the nature of care it provides and the third is most certainly a form of detention.

There is one exception to section 196 under which children may be released from detention. The Minister may issue a "bridging visa" under certain guidelines to children, people over the age of 75 years of age, spouses of Australian citizens or persons with a special health need or with previous experience of torture or trauma. [20] This discretion is rarely exercised with respect to children. Currently the Minister has issued a total of one bridging visa to an unaccompanied child who has been placed in foster care arrangements within the community. [21]

In January 2002, 9 unaccompanied children were removed from Woomera IRPC and placed in the care of the South Australian Department of Human Services. Whilst it is unclear what type of accommodation is being provided to these children (ie foster care, hostel-style accommodation, etc), it should be noted that the children were removed because the Government '…needed to protect…[them] from the coercion of other adult detainees…throughout the recent protest action at Woomera detention centre.' [22] The children were not removed because it was considered that detention is not in the best interests of children, especially ones without family members.

The 'Woomera Alternative Detention Arrangements for Women and Children Project' was established in August 2001. The DIMIA Fact Sheet describing the project states:

'The Project enables some women and their children to live in family-style accommodation away from the IRPC, while remaining in immigration detention. As unlawful arrivals in Australia, Australian law requires that they remain in detention while their immigration status is resolved.' [23]

The project is limited to 25 women and children and the conditions of the project permit only women who have a family member remaining at the IRPC to participate. While their daughters are allowed to be a part of the Project, their sons over the age of 12 are barred. The 25 participants reside in four houses which they run themselves. They may visit each other but must arrange with authorities if other people wish to visit them. The family members remaining at the IRPC may not visit the Project. Outings to local shops, cinema and the local swimming pool are organised. Children in the Project participate in the IRPC education program although DIMIA is assessing the possibility of enrolling them in local schools. [24]

United Kingdom

Current procedures

Unlike Australia in the UK there is no policy of mandatory detention although there is provision for short periods of detention for some categories of asylum seekers considered to be "risky". Under the new White Paper referred to below it is stated that detention is to be used only as a last resort before removing individuals whose asylum applications have failed.

Because of this context, the main focus of relevant UK policy is on unaccompanied or 'separated' children. This language is important as it assumes that the primary status of the child arises from its position as a member of a family. The same language is used in Canada as is explained below.

The Home Office has stated:

'There is an undertaking that unaccompanied children should never be detained other than in the most exceptional circumstances and only for a very short period.'

Nonetheless, because of unsatisfactory methods of resolving age disputes, some unaccompanied asylum seeking children find themselves detained in UK immigration detention facilities for short periods. It should be noted, however, that it is estimated that between 1994 and 2001, 220 children had spent time in UK detentions centres. [26] As the annual figure for asylum seekers to the UK is currently around 90,000 this figure pales into insignificance in comparison to Australia.

The general policy is that all children who arrive in the UK without a valid visa - including those seeking asylum - who are separated from their parents and other family members are cared for under the 1989 Children Act. The Home Office works together with the Department of Health and local authorities to provide foster and residential placements as well as access to legal, health and social services to the vast majority of unaccompanied children who arrive in the UK seeking asylum. The children attend local schools. Under the Government's "exceptional leave policy", children whose asylum applications have failed and for whom adequate care in their country of origin can not be arranged are given leave to remain in the UK until their eighteenth birthday.

Problems with the current system

As in Australia it seems that there in a tension between the ideal and the reality. Children who are older (16 - 17 years old, some as young as 15) are sometimes placed in bed and breakfast accommodation. A report released in July 2001, titled Separated Children in the UK: an Overview of the Current Situation, notes that often this type of accommodation is unsupported and the services of a social worker are not provided. The report concluded that this failing is a question of funding:

'No doubt this is in part related to anomalies in the funding local authorities receive from central Government for the care of separated children. For separated children the level of support they receive from the local authority can be a lottery, compounded by differences in financial and educational entitlements related to their immigration status.' [27]

Each year, 4,000 - 5,000 children are referred to the Panel of Advisers for Unaccompanied Refugee Children, a non-statutory service funded by the Home Office to provide short-term assistance to separated children. [28] Expressed as a percentage of annual asylum seekers to the UK this is about 5%. This figure does not include those children who arrive with their family and seek asylum in the UK.

Government's response

On 7 February 2002, the Home Secretary, David Blunkett MP, presented the Government's new White Paper on asylum, migration and citizenship to Parliament. Titled Secure Borders, Safe Haven, the White Paper sets out the details of a policy which responds to the current-day challenges of migration and seeking asylum, largely associated with globalisation. [29]

Chapter Four of the White Paper deals with asylum generally. A sub-section addresses the plight of unaccompanied asylum seeking children, stating that the Government '…will continue to offer protection and appropriate levels of care to children under the age of 18 who have been separated from their parents and other family and who are genuinely in need of protection.' [30] The following measures are proposed by the White Paper:

  • children separated from their parents and other family members will continue to be cared for under the 1989 Children Act;
  • the Home Office will work with local authorities to improve the care and support arrangements for unaccompanied asylum seeking children by improving information exchange and models of best practice;
  • the Home Office will also explore possibilities for the joint commissioning (together with relevant local agencies) of suitable accommodation for unaccompanied children who are 16 - 17 years old on arrival;
  • more effective mechanisms will be introduced to deal with adults posing as children including improvement of current age assessment procedures; and
  • unaccompanied children may be interviewed about their asylum applications under a wider set of circumstances than is currently the case. It is hoped that children who are given the 'opportunity to tell their story' will provide the Home Office and local authorities a clearer picture of the child's background and experiences and in turn enable them to provide more appropriate levels of care and protection in each case. Only staff who have been properly trained in this area will be able to interview.


Current procedures

In 2001 the United States (US) received about 83,000 applications for asylum. [31] The US does not have a policy of mandatory detention for all unauthorised arrivals or aliens. It does however detain some categories of "illegal immigrants" or aliens, and this may include asylum seekers. It has been estimated that in early 2001 about one third of the 20,000 persons in some form of immigration detention were asylum seekers. [32] About 40% of detained asylum seekers are paroled. [33] These figures show that only a small proportion of asylum seekers are subject to immigration detention.

Overview of procedures for dealing with illegal immigration to the US

The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) is responsible for dealing with illegal immigration to the US. "Aliens", as they are known in the US, who are apprehended at or near US borders by Border Patrol Agents, are usually transported to Border Patrol Stations where administrative or criminal processing begins. If the legal requirements for mandatory detention do not apply (ie the alien is not placed in expedited removal or proceedings or is not chargeable as a terrorist or as a criminal) and if there is no risk of flight or of danger to the community, the alien may be released into the community under either bail or parole conditions. In a recent statement to a Senate committee review of Department of Justice immigration detention policies, INS representatives said, 'In cases where an arriving alien asserts an asylum claim, INS policy favors release from custody if the alien is found to have a credible fear of persecution.' [34]

Treatment of unaccompanied alien children

Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) is responsible for detaining unaccompanied juveniles who enter the US illegally. Its fact sheet on its juvenile detention and shelter care program states that as an initial measure, unaccompanied children arriving in the US illegally are placed in custody. Priority is placed on releasing children to parents already in the US, legal guardian or adult relative. Where no such arrangement can be met, the INS may release the child to a responsible adult designated by the parent or legal guardian in a sworn affidavit or to a licensed child-care facility such as foster care or a boarding home. [35] Nonetheless, in 2000, authorities detained nearly 4,700 unaccompanied children arriving at US borders without appropriate documentation. [36] Expressed as a percentage of asylum seekers (and this figure does not distinguish them from "illegal immigrants") this is about 5.7% (that is, slightly higher than the UK figure).

The standard of detention facilities and treatment of children at the centres is a point of strong contention, with policy objectives not being fulfilled in reality. The INS states that its standard, nationwide policy:

'…requires that juveniles not released [from initial custody] be placed only in facilities that have separate accommodations designed for their needs… All facilities are state-licensed and, as such, meet or exceed state requirements in the areas of safety, education, recreation and physical exercise, nutrition, and medical and counselling services.'

The policy further prohibits detaining unaccompanied alien children in "secure juvenile facilities" longer than 72 hours. [38]

According to Amnesty International, however, the INS policy requirements are not always being met:

'In 2000, the INS detained nearly 4,700 [unaccompanied alien] children…The INS detains these children at various sites around the country; many of them are detained in juvenile and county jails.' [39]

Amnesty further claims that some of these children wear prison uniforms and are pat-searched or even strip-searched, sometimes handcuffed or shackled, and denied access to outdoor activities. Some children are allegedly detained in solitary confinement. [40] Dennis McNamara, former Director of the UNHCR Division of International Protection, adds that in the US, unaccompanied children are often detained 'for lengthy periods…rarely understanding what was happening to them… [and are] subjected to a rigid and punitive environment.' [41] At present, unaccompanied alien children have no right to paid legal counsel or to the services of child welfare professionals. [42]

Unaccompanied children seeking asylum are acknowledged as having unique needs and experiences. In December 1998, the INS released its Guidelines for Children's Asylum Claims, written to assist INS officers in evaluating unaccompanied children's asylum applications. The guidelines suggest 'child-sensitive' methods for interacting with children during their asylum or refugee interviews, designed to provide the children with a more comfortable, secure environment in which they can "tell their story". It should be noted, however, that the guidelines '…do not change the law in any way.' [43]

Proposals for change

On 22 January 2001, Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced "S.121", a bill titled Unaccompanied Alien Child Protection Act of 2001, to the Senate. The bill centres on establishing '…an Office of Children's Services within the Department of Justice to coordinate and implement Government actions involving unaccompanied alien children.' [44] The same day, the bill was read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary. Hearings to examine the bill were not conducted by the Committee's Immigration Subcommittee until 28 February 2002, some 13 months later. [45]

The rationale behind the bill is that responsibility for the care and custody of unaccompanied children and the responsibility for deciding the outcome of a child's case should lie with two separate bodies, the new Office of Children's Services (OCS) and the INS respectively, so as to remove any conflict of interest. Other measures proposed by the bill include:

  • establishing an "Interagency Task Force on Unaccompanied Children";
  • releasing unaccompanied alien children found in the US into the wider community and placing them under the jurisdiction of the OCS;
  • placing priority on family reunification or foster care placement over detention and improving conditions in detention facilities which are designed for unaccompanied alien children;
  • prohibiting detention in adult or delinquent children facilities (except in the case of violent children);
  • requiring the OCS to develop policies that would prohibit shackling, handcuffing, or other restraints on children; placing children in solitary confinement; and subjecting children to pat or strip searches;
  • prohibiting the repatriation of a child to a country unless a voluntary agency has conducted an assessment of the conditions in that country and the Office has assessed the suitability of repatriating the child;
  • instructing the OCS to provide each child with legal counsel and with a guardian ad litem (the latter must be provided within 72 hours of the OCS taking custody of the child);
  • amending the Immigration and Nationality Act to create a special immigrant juvenile visa for immigrant children in certain circumstances who are already present in the US;
  • protecting children who "age-out" while awaiting final determination of their immigration applications;
  • endorsing the INS Guidelines for Children's Asylum Claims in their application to unaccompanied alien children in refugee-like circumstances and directing the Attorney General to provide immigration officers with related training;
  • amending the Immigration and Nationality Act to exempt unaccompanied alien children from certain removal and asylum filing provisions; and
  • directing the Comptroller General to assess and report on the performance of the OCS.

Should the bill be passed and subsequently enacted, the plight of unaccompanied alien children arriving in the US, including those seeking asylum, will be forever changed. The bill has the wide support of American and international human rights and child advocacy groups.


Current procedures

Canada does not have a mandatory detention policy. However like the UK it does detain some categories of "risky" asylum seekers considered to have "manifestly unfounded" claims or to be a security or other risk.

Detention of child asylum seekers in Canada is considered highly undesirable and strictly a "last resort" measure. Nonetheless, grounds for detention - failure to establish identity, being a danger to the public or posing a security risk, and being unlikely to appear for immigration proceedings or removal - apply equally to children and adults. Nothing in Canadian law prohibits the detention of children. During 1999-2000, 338 children were detained: 252 were held with a parent (usually the mother), 86 were separated children. Of the 338 children, 75% were detained for one day or less. [46] This figure of 338 expressed as a percentage of the annual number of asylum seekers (111,499) is .3% - a miniscule phenomenon in comparison to Australia's child refugee population. However, when one of the authors of this report was in Canada in October 2001, refugee groups were expressing concern about the increasing number of unaccompanied minors or "separated children" who were subject to detention.

Immigration procedures as they relate to separated children

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) is responsible for dealing with people arriving at a Canadian Port of Entry (POE). When a child arrives, CIC must ascertain two matters: whether the child will be admitted to Canada and to the refugee determination procedure; and whether the child is unaccompanied (or "separated") and therefore in need of special attention. Like adults, children may make a claim for refugee status at the POE or after entry into Canada. No child may be removed from Canada without representation. As such, the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) appoints "designated representatives" to all children without a parent.[47] In 1996, the IRB adopted Guidelines on Child Refugee Claimants to assist adjudicators to take the special needs of asylum-seeking children in account when determining their applications. [48]

Most separated children arriving in Canada are met by someone at the POE or have the phone number and address of someone to contact. In such cases, the immigration officers assess the nature of the relationship and whether it is in the best interests of the child to release him or her to that person. The proportion of children arriving on their own (or with siblings or other children) with no contact person in Canada is relatively small. [49] Where a child arrives alone like this or where there are concerns about the accompanying adult or about the person meeting the child at the POE, immigration officers have a duty to contact an appropriate child welfare agency.

As child protection and welfare falls under provincial (as opposed to federal) jurisdiction, treatment of separated asylum seeking children varies from province to province. [50] Types of placements for children include foster care, group homes, and semi-independent living. [51] A UNHCR report titled Separated Children Seeking Asylum in Canada, written in July 2001, notes that many of the welfare agencies '…lack the expertise required to address the needs of separated asylum-seeking children'. [52] An increased strain on resources - owing to federal-provincial tensions over funding and an overall jump in the number of Canadian children being cared for by welfare agencies - has meant that the particular needs of separated asylum-seeking children are not being met.

The conditions of the detention centres at which children are held vary. In British Columbia, children under 18 years of age are detained in a youth offender facility. In Ontario, the detention centre has been described as '…a bleak environment.' [53] There are no recreational facilities for children and detainees must remain in their rooms except during set periods such as meal times. Limited medical services are provided. By contrast, the detention centre in Quebec, a former penitentiary, is described as being '…in good condition, well lit and maintained. [54] ' Detainees have freedom of movement until 11:30pm. Medical, educational and recreational services are amply provided. Nonetheless, the UNHCR report makes the following observations:

'The immigration detention centres are not appropriate places to detain children, let alone separated asylum-seeking children. They have none of the facilities required for children, and CIC has no particular child-care expertise. Young offender correctional institutions are not appropriate either, as their services are not geared to the particular needs of separated asylum-seeking children.' [55]

Legislative reform

On 1 November 2001, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act received Royal Assent. Whilst the Act deals with a range of immigration issues, the tone of the legislation clearly reflects a commitment to the value that sanctuary should be provided to those who have a well-founded fear of persecution:

'The objectives for the refugee program stress that refugee protection is in the first instance about saving lives and that providing fair consideration to those who come to Canada claiming persecution is a fundamental expression of Canada's humanitarian ideals.' [56]

The main areas of reform which specifically relate to refugees include placing a priority on family reunification; and bolstering refugee protection through a fairer, more efficient determination process. [57]

Several safeguards for children are built into the legislation, which are underscored by a commitment to protecting the best interests of the child. For example, when deciding whether or not to grant foreign permanent resident status on humanitarian or compassionate grounds, the Minister is required to take into account the best interests of the child who is directly affected by the decision. [58] Similarly, section 67(1)(c) requires that the Immigration Appeal Division take into account the best interests of a child who will be directly affected by its decision. [59] The UNHCR report commends this approach:

'The inclusion of a best interests test in certain aspects of…[the Act] is a positive step towards the development of child welfare standards within immigration law.' [60]

Section 60 affirms the principle that children should be detained only as a measure of last resort, taking into account the best interests of the child. Regulations to be made under the Act [61] will set out factors to be considered with respect to the detention of a child, including:

  • whether alternative care arrangements can be made with local child care agencies or child protection services;
  • the length of the anticipated detention;
  • whether the child is at risk of being accessed by the criminally organised smugglers who brought the child to Canada in the first instance;
  • the nature of the detention facility (ie whether there are prison-like conditions and whether children can be separated from adults); and
  • the availability of services such as education, counselling and recreation.

With regards to schooling, under section 30(2), a foreign minor child in Canada does not require an authorisation to study at the pre-school, primary or secondary level unless he or she is the minor child of a temporary resident not authorised to work or study in Canada. This will guarantee immediate entry to school for the children of those seeking refugee status. [62] The UNHCR notes, however, that '…separated asylum-seeking children are likely to need the help of an experienced adult to enrol in school.' [63]


Several conclusions can be drawn from this study:

1. The problem of children in detention is one which the Australian government has created through its policies in relation to mandatory detention and temporary visas, which do not permit family reunion. The large number of children in detention in Australia is a direct product of those policies.

2. Although Australia is receiving a similar proportion of child refugees as the United Kingdom and the USA, currently the issue in Australia is mainly with accompanied children, whereas in those other countries the problem mainly relates to unaccompanied child asylum seekers. It should be noted that in Canada where the government has not introduced a deterrent temporary visa regime, there is only a small number of child asylum seekers.

3. This study shows that Australia is alone in not having special legislation and policies which recognise the needs of child asylum seekers, in particular that it is in their "best interests" to reside in the broader community. The Australian government should develop and implement policies which are consistent with those in the other jurisdictions under study. The policies in those jurisdictions are compatible with the recognised human rights of children. Those of the Australian government are not.

4. It can be anticipated that the number of unaccompanied child asylum seekers will increase globally and in Australia. Canada is beginning to experience this trend. The Australian government should foreshadow this and put in place laws and policies which recognise the different needs of the two separate groups of child asylum seekers, accompanied and unaccompanied.

5. The study shows that in common with other countries there is a problem in ensuring compliance with performance standards relating to child asylum seekers. This suggests the need for close monitoring of the standards.

* Submission prepared by Gabi Crafti and Susan Kneebone on behalf of the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, Monash University.

1. Temporary Visa subclass 785 was created by amendment to the regulations under the Migration Act 1958 (Cth) in 1999.

2. Sections 46A and 196 Migration Act 1958

3. Migration Amendment (Excision from Migration Zone) Act 2001 (Cth) and Migration Amendment (Excision from Migration Zone) (Consequential Provisions) Act 2001 (Cth).

4. Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, Fact Sheet 65: New Humanitarian Visa System, 14 January 2002. See

5. Migration Amendment (Excision from Migration Zone) (Consequential Provisions) Act 2001 (Cth).

6. Temporary Visa subclass 785 was created by amendment to the regulations under the Migration Act 1958 (Cth) in 1999.

7. P Ruddock MP, Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, Women and Children in Detention. See

8. Op cit, n 4.

9. Note: the figures given in the Report on Visits to Immigration Detention Centres by the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade (2001) Chapter 5 contains much higher figures.

10. Op cit, n 4.

11. P Ruddock MP, Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, Women and Children in Detention. See

12. HREOC, Woomera Immigration Detention Centre: report of visit by HREOC officers, media statement by President Professor Alice Tay AM and Dr Sev Ozdowski, Human Rights Commissioner OAM, 6 February 2002.

13. See

14. Ibid.

15. Ibid.

16. Ibid.

17. HREOC National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention Background Paper 3: Mental Health and Development. See

18. Op cit, n 12. The fact-finding mission was part of HREOC's National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention, which commenced in November 2001 and which is still in progress.

19. Ibid.

20. Ibid.

21. HREOC National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention Background Paper 1: Introduction.

22. See

23. Op cit, n 4.

24. Ibid.

25. Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, Fact Sheet 83: The Woomera Alternative Detention Arrangements for Women and Children Project, 3 August 2001. See

26. Ibid.

27. Ibid, p 56.

28. Ibid.

29. W Ayotte and L Williamson Separated Children in the UK: an overview of the current situation, commissioned by the British Refugee Society and Save the Children, July 2001, p 7.

30. See

31. Ibid, p 17 and Where are the Children? A mapping exercise on the numbers of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in the UK: September 2000 - March 2001 carried out by the Refugee Council and the British Agencies for Adoption and Fostering, p 18. See

32. Home Office, Secure Borders, Safe Haven: Integration with Diversity in Modern Britain, CM 5387, 7 February 2002. See

33. A consultation period on the White Paper will last until 21 March 2002 at which point a Bill on asylum, migration and citizenship will be presented to Parliament. The Bill is expected to be passed before the Queen's Speech in November.

34. Op cit, n 29, p 61.

35. UNHCR website.

36. A Millbank, 'The Detention of Boat People', Current Issues Brief 8 2000-01, Parliamentary Library (available at

37. Ibid.

38. Statement of Joseph Greene, Acting Deputy Executive Associate Commissioner for Field Operations and Edward McElroy, District Director, New York, US Immigration and Naturalization Service, before the House Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims regarding a Review of Department of Justice Immigration Detention Policies, 19 December 2001, 2237 Rayburn House Office Building, 2:00pm, p2. See

39. US Department of Justice, Immigration and Naturalization Service Fact Sheet INS' Juvenile Detention and Shelter Care Program, 7 September 2000. See

40. Amnesty International, Refugee Children: The Unaccompanied Alien Child Protection Act (2001).

41. See

42. Op cit, n 36, p 2.

43. Ibid. NB, this prohibition applies unless the child: is an escape risk; is at risk from harm; is a delinquent or is facing a delinquency hearing; may be or has been charged with or convicted of a crime; or has shown 'disruptive or violent behaviour while in a licensed program'. The prohibition is further limited by the availability of 'juvenile care space'.

44. Op cit, n 37.

45. Ibid.

46. D McNamara, Promises Broken. See

47. E E O'Connor "Current Development: Developments in the Legislative Branch" 16 Geo. Immigr. L.J. 259 at 259.

48. See also Editorial, "1,000 child immigrants worse off then Elian" in USA Today, 28 February 2000, p 18.

49. See also J Becker "The other immigrant children" in The Miami Herald, 7 January 2000. See

50. US Department of Justice, Immigration and Naturalization Service News Release, INS Issues New Guidelines for Children's Asylum Claims, 10 December 1998. See

51. Unaccompanied Alien Child Protection Act of 2001 (S.121). See

52. When transcripts and/or analysis of the hearing become available, this study will be updated.

53. Ibid, p 19. 252 children were detained for one day or less; 24 were detained for less than 15 days; 42 were detained for over 30 days.

54. See the CIC website at

55. IRB of Canada, Child Refugee Claimants: Procedural and Evidentiary Issues, Ottawa, 30 September 1996.

56. See

57. UNHCR, Separated children seeking asylum in Canada: a discussion paper adapted from an original report researched and written by Wendy Ayotte, July 2001, p 15. See

58. Ibid.

59. Ibid, "Chapter 6: Guardianship and Care of Separated Children", pp 44 - 60.

60. Ibid, p 4.

61. Ibid. Other areas of reform which broadly relate to the immigration process deal with: simplifying the legislative framework and creating more coherent procedures, selection system for skilled workers, the criteria for permanent resident status and '…maintaining the safety of Canadian society and respect for Canadian norms of social responsibility.' Section 25(1) Immigration and Refugee Protection Act 2001.

63. CIC Canada, What is new in the proposed Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. Pre-publication of the final set of proposed Regulations has been delayed. Once released, they may be viewed at

Last Updated 9 January 2003.