A last resort?
National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention
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Major findings and Recommendations
The Inquiry has found that Australian laws that require the mandatory, indeterminate and effectively unreviewable immigration detention of children, and the way these laws are administered by the Commonwealth, have resulted in numerous and repeated breaches of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The Inquiry made a range of specific findings in relation to:
These specific findings, based on evidence received by the Inquiry, were assessed against Australia's human rights obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child. From this, the Inquiry reached its major findings and recommendations.
MAJOR FINDING 1
Australia's immigration detention laws, as administered by the Commonwealth, and applied to unauthorised arrival children, create a detention system that is fundamentally inconsistent with the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
In particular, Australia's mandatory detention system fails to ensure that:
MAJOR FINDING 2
Children in immigration detention for long periods of time are at high risk of serious mental harm. The Commonwealth's failure to implement the repeated recommendations by mental health professionals that certain children be removed from the detention environment with their parents amounted to cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of those children in detention (CRC, article 37(a)).
MAJOR FINDING 3
At various times between 1999 and 2002, children in immigration detention were not in a position to fully enjoy the following rights:
Children in immigration detention centres and residential housing projects, as at the date of the tabling of this report, should be released with their parents as soon as possible, but no later than four weeks after tabling.
The Minister and the Department can effect this recommendation within the current legislative framework by one of the following methods:
If one or more parents are assessed to be a high security risk, the Department should seek the urgent advice of the relevant child protection authorities regarding the best interests of the child and implement that advice.
Australia's immigration detention laws should be amended, as a matter of urgency, to comply with the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
In particular, the new laws should incorporate the following minimum features:
An independent guardian should be appointed for unaccompanied children and they should receive appropriate support.
Minimum standards of treatment for children in immigration detention should be codified in legislation.
There should be a review of the impact on children of legislation that creates 'excised offshore places' and the 'Pacific Solution'.
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© Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. Last updated 13 May 2004.
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