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The Forgotten Children, one year on

Graphic: Drawing by child in detention

It has been a year since the Commission's National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention 2014 produced its findings and recommendations in The Forgotten Children report.

The report revealed that the prolonged, mandatory detention of asylum seeker children causes them significant mental and physical illness and developmental delays.

The Commission called for all children held in immigration detention in Australia and Nauru to be released into the Australian community. Around the time the Inquiry was announced there were 1,006 children in detention facilities in Australia, and 132 children in detention in Nauru.

Since then, the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection has used his personal discretion under the Migration Act 1958 (Cth) to release several hundred children and their family members from immigration detention facilities by placing them in community detention or granting them bridging visas.

Aside from the release of the majority of children from immigration detention in Australia, there have been other positive developments since the Inquiry.

The Commission welcomes the removal of all children from Christmas Island; the establishment of a Child Protection Panel; and the scrutiny of the consequences of Australia's policies of third country processing and mandatory immigration detention by the Moss Review, the Senate Select Committee, the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, and the Royal Commission.

However, the Commission calls on the Government to immediately act to remove the 174 children still in immigration detention in Australia and Nauru.

The Forgotten Children report demonstrated that these children are at risk of significant harm the longer they remain in detention. The Commission also urges the Government not to return any child in Australia to Nauru, given the risk of harm to these children and their need for ongoing medical care.

For a detailed overview of developments over the past year, visit: https://humanrights.gov.au/news/stories/forgotten-children-1-year

Graphic: 'Forgotten Children' report cover

On 4 February 2016, the Commission released the paediatricians' report of the visit to Wickham Point detention facility in Darwin. The report outlined concerning evidence about the mental and physical health of the children detained at Wickham Point, most of whom had spent months in Nauru.

The paediatricians reported that these children were amongst the most traumatised they had ever seen and recommended that under no circumstances should any child detained on the mainland be sent to Nauru.

Following a recent High Court decision (Plaintiff M68/2015 v Minister for Immigration and Border Protection), many of the children detained at Wickham Point, including some who were born in Australia, are due to be transferred to the regional processing centre in Nauru.

The Commission expressed its concern that moving the children and their families to Nauru could place Australia at risk of breaching its international obligations to ensure people are not subject to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

Date: 11 February 2016

Source: Australian Human Rights Commission

Image credits

  1. Drawing by child in detention - Australian Human Rights Commission
  2. 'Forgotten Children' report cover - Australian Human Rights Commission