By Zoe Noakes, produced online by Erin Smith
Australia’s policy of detaining refugee children will be put under the spotlight this month, as part of a global campaign to end the practice.
Human rights group Chillout will today visit the Leonora Detention Facility in Western Australia to raise awareness of the issue.
Campaign director Sophie Peer says the centre’s remote location means the 120 boys who live there are cut off from the world.
“For those boys we are talking about extreme isolation, lack of all access to schools, lack of access to the outside community and really not the support services that they need,” she said.
Refugee coordinator for Amnesty International Dr Graham Thom says the number of children detained in Australia is unacceptable.
“We still have over 400 children in detention in this country, which is way too many,” he said.
Refugee Council of Australia spokesman Andrew Williams says the Federal Government needs to pull its refugee policies into line with other countries.
“Australia is the only industrialised nation in the world that detains children in an immigration context,” he said.
Currently all refugees who arrive by boat in Australia are automatically detained, and Dr Thom says this policy means children can be locked up indefinitely.
He says the Government needs to change this practice.
“Why isn’t there an assessment made right at the beginning – do we need to detain this child if they are not a threat? If we know who they are, then they should be detained at all?” he said.
Ms Peer says the health of the child suffers when they are cut off from the community.
Mr Williams says living within a community gives children a chance at normal life.
“Certainly I don’t think it is in the best interest of the child development to be behind fences or in a security context,” he said.
“You certainly need a lot of community support so the child can have the same sort of lifestyle that most of us take for granted.”