Sending unaccompanied children who are seeking asylum in Australia to detention in Malaysia is a breach of not only their human rights, but also their special rights as children and as refugees, according to the peak advocacy body for young children, Early Childhood Australia (ECA).
ECA chief executive Pam Cahir today spoke out strongly in favour of the establishment of an independent Commonwealth Commissioner for Children and Young People to ensure children’s best interests are put first in this and other situations, and released additional recommendations around the issue of asylum seeker children.
“It’s a huge concern that children are being put into mandatory detention in this country, and even more disturbing that the Government is considering sending unaccompanied young people to detention in Malaysia,” said Ms Cahir.
“The whole debate about children in detention shows that there is a need for an independent commissioner to give a strong voice to vulnerable children in Australia.
“One of the functions of a commissioner should be to promote and protect the rights of children and young people in immigration detention, or children whose parents or guardians are in immigration detention. It should also go further to uphold their rights not to be incarcerated in these institutions.
“Right now political point-scoring is being given precedent over the rights of vulnerable children.
“Our efforts to stop people smuggling – a dangerous, abhorrent industry – should never undermine our responsibility to protect and care for children.
“Often these children are pawns in the people smuggling trade. Punishing them will only aggravate their trauma and cause them more harm.
“The government needs to show moral leadership in dealing with the complexities of this situation. Australia will fare best by protecting children, and seeking to place families with children and unaccompanied minors in the community while their claims are assessed,” Ms Cahir said.
- Families with children and unaccompanied minors should be placed in the community while their claims are assessed."
- In the event that an application for refugee status is unsuccessful and families and unaccompanied minors cannot return to their home country, families and unaccompanied minors should continue to live in the community until such time as they can return home.
- Families should have access to the support they need to care for their children and participate in the community.
- Unaccompanied minors should have access to the support they need to participate in the community.
- All school-aged children should have access to the same education available to all other Australian children.
- All young children and families should have access to the same range of children's services and funding support available to all other Australian children.
- All children should have access to health programs and services.
- Language support should be available in the child's home language.
- Specialist support services should be available to help children and families cope with trauma.
- Temporary visas must be abolished as they significantly contribute to the dislocation and the unsettled nature of the refugee status and are not conducive to the rearing of healthy children.
- Establish an Office for the Commissioner of Children and Young People to provide a focus on the best interests of children and young people and a platform for comment and action that is in their best interests.
Media comment: Pam Cahir, 0407 008 524 | Further information: Claire Johnston, 0434 489 533