While asylum seeker advocates are celebrating the announcement that some children and their families will be released from detention, they warn that there is still much to do. Dianne Jensen reports.
The Uniting Church in Australia has welcomed an announcement by the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Scott Morrison that some children in detention will be released into the community.
The initiative applies to children under the age of ten years and their families who arrived before 19 July 2013 and are currently being held in immigration detention on the Australian mainland. It will affect around 150 children and their families, leaving an estimated 414 children in onshore detention centres and 331 children (some unaccompanied minors) on Christmas Island and Nauru.
Queensland Synod research officer Sue Hutchinson says that the fate of those children remaining in detention is deeply concerning.
“While we celebrate any steps forward, there will still be significant numbers of children of all ages who have been shunted away to remote places, removed from public and professional scrutiny. The damage which is being inflicted on the mental and physical health of these vulnerable young people is an unfolding tragedy.”
Ms Hutchinson is the Synod representative on the the Brisbane Refugee and Asylum Seeker Support (BRASS) Network which aims to coordinate support services and to advocate for asylum seekers. She warns that without the right to work and proper support the newly released families will find themselves in dire straits.
Rev Elenie Poulos, the National Director of UnitingJustice Australia also has expressed concern about those remaining in detention.
“This group of asylum seekers was always going to be released. What about those children who are suffering on Nauru and Christmas Island? And what about children over the age of ten?”
UnitingJustice made a submission in June to the Australian Human Rights Commission national inquiry into children in immigration detention, outlining concerns about the inappropriateness of the existing facilities as well as the lack of transparency and oversight.
“The wealth of evidence-based literature … suggests that the longer a child is detained, the more severe and long-lasting the negative mental and physical impacts of their detention,” said the submission.
In March this year the Uniting Church in Australia’s offer to provide sanctuary for all children without parents on Christmas Island was refused by the Australian Government.