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RightsED: Child Rights - Resource sheet: A last resort

Child rights


Resource sheet: A last resort

Evidence from the 2003 National Inquiry into Children in Immigration

Read through the following quotes. These are things that asylum seeker
children told the Australian Human Rights Commission about their time in
Australian immigration detention centres.

Quote 1

I think that the children should be free and when they are there for one
year or two years they are just wasting their time, they could go to school and
they could learn something. They could be free. Instead they are like a bird in
a cage.

Ten-year-old Afghan girl found to be a refugee, Perth focus
group, June 2002.

Quote 2

There are children who have been there for a very long time – two to
three years – and they have done things that are very distressing, like
they went up the trees and they wanted to throw themselves, trying to commit
suicide. There were kids that actually stitched their mouths. Things that are so
traumatic that we are now having nightmares on a daily basis.

Former detainee boy, Perth focus group, June 2002.

Quote 3

When we were in the detention centre and someone was sick, headache or
sick and they would say, ‘Just drink water’. ... My sister has a
problem with her eyes. She said her eyes were so painful and she went to the
doctor who said, ‘You just have to drink water’. Now we come to
Sydney and the doctor says she has a problem in her eyes.

Teenage girl, Sydney focus group, September 2002.

Quote 4

In Port Hedland there is a school outside ... I used to stand on a chair
and look out at them. I like to see what they looked like in their school
uniform. There was an officer ... and she pulled my shoulder down and put me on
the ground and said, ‘You are not allowed to look at those people because
they are different to you’. And I was like ‘Why are they different
to me? Because they know English and they are Australian, does that make them

Teenage boy, Perth focus group, June 2002.

Quote 5

After one month they brought one woman but you don’t know who she is
– we are just UAMs (unaccompanied minors) with her. At this age we need
mother and father – we not leave mother and father unless there are big
things to make us leave our families.

Unaccompanied child, Woomera, January 2002.