Children in immigration detention

Posted 21 August 2014 9:20am

A welcome first step.

Catholic Social Services Australia (CSSA) welcomes the announcement today by the Hon. Scott Morrison MP, Minister for Immigration and Border Protection that children under 10 currently held in immigration detention who arrived in Australia prior to 19 July 2013 will be released into the community in the company of their families.

While acknowledging this welcome shift in government policy, CSSA calls on the Federal government to release all children under the age of 18 and their families currently held in immigration detention both onshore and offshore.

“I commend the Minister for this first step and urge him to extend this change in policy to include all children under the age of 18, together with their families, who are being held both onshore and offshore in immigration detention facilities,” said CSSA CEO Marcelle Mogg.

“Australia’s policy of immigration detention is especially harmful for children, especially when we remember that these are children who have already been exposed to high degrees of violence and trauma in their country of origin,” said Ms Mogg.

CSSA’s member organisations, who provide support to children in community detention programmes and children released from immigration centres, observe that unaccompanied children (under 18 years of age):

  • Demonstrate a lack of trust of authority figures with some believing that CSSA member agency staff had similar roles to the guards in the detention centre;
  • Have had traumatic experiences and are fearful for families left behind as well as their own future;
  • Often will not speak about their time in detention centres, though they will speak about their home country and journey to Australia. This could be because of fear of speaking out or wanting to forget these experiences; and
  • All unaccompanied minors currently in community detention in Australia face an uncertain future with bridging visas (from when they turn 18) prohibiting them from engaging in work or study for around 3-5 years.

CSSA also calls on the Minister to ensure that those families who are moved from immigration detention to the community setting will have full access to employment, medical care and social support services.

“We welcome the Minister’s announcement that children released into the community will have access to extended case work management, school, accommodation and English lessons. What will be of greater assistance are visas which allow parents to work to support these children – a scenario in which everybody benefits,” said Ms Mogg.

CSSA’s member organisations currently provide a range of services and support to people seeking asylum including accommodation and support for unaccompanied minors, community settlement assistance, community detention programmes individuals and families, support services on release from detention, transitional housing, financial and emergency assistance, no-interest loans, English classes, advocacy and casework support, and material aid.

Catholic Social Services Australia is the Catholic Church’s peak national body for social services. CSSA works with its member organisations to promote a fairer, more inclusive society that reflects and supports the dignity, equality and participation of all people. Our 60 member organisations care for over 1 million Australians each year. 

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