Tens of thousands of children around the world, including over 500 in Australia, are currently estimated to be held in immigration detention simply because they do not hold the right documents, the International Detention Coalition reveals in a new report.
The report, Captured Childhood, was released at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Act for Peace, the international aid agency of the National Council of Churches in Australia, is a founding member of the International Detention Coalition, which produced the report, and is supporting the global campaign for an end to child detention.
Australia is one of the countries of concern that will be highlighted in the global campaign for its detention of children, which is known to have a devastating effect on their physical, emotional and psychological development.
In October 2010, the Federal government announced it would begin releasing children from immigration detention into community based accommodation. Despite this commitment, children continue to be detained.
“There are 528 kids in Australian detention centres, often in secure and remote facilities, some as young as six years of age and without parents or carers. It is appalling. What’s more, we have been doing it for 20 years,” said James Thomson, Act for Peace Policy Director and a member of the International Detention Coalition governing board.
The Captured Childhood report highlights the harrowing stories of children around the world who have fled war zones, watched family members be killed or persecuted, or been subject to persecution and harm themselves. Many are alone, traumatised and in need of protection. The report is based on interviews with children and parents of children who have been detained in countries including Australia, Egypt, Greece, Israel and the United States.
“This campaign is not about scoring political points,” said James Thomson. “Every Australian government since 1992 has detained children. It is a bipartisan practice and it is institutionalised. It’s staggering to think that rather than being illegal, it is actually compulsory. Under Australian law, it is still mandatory to detain every man, woman and child arriving in Australia without a visa regardless of their reason for arriving. Under international law, signed by Australia, children are only meant to be detained as a last resort and for the shortest possible time.”
Act for Peace works with project partners around the world to support refugees and displaced people, and advocates for stronger refugee protection in our region.