Children in detention report

On the 30 May, 2014 the St Vincent de Paul Society made a submission to the Australian Human Rights Commission’s National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention.

Executive summary

The St Vincent de Paul Society works all over Australia to assist disadvantaged newly arrived asylum seekers and refugees, including many children. What our experience has shown us, and is borne out by a weight of evidence, is that immigration detention is deeply harmful to asylum seekers, and particularly to children. These young people are already very vulnerable, and the conditions in detention are deeply harmful.  Some stories of what we have heard and witnessed are outlined below. We thank the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) for its interest in this area, and we urge it to continue putting forward the argument against detention of children in the strongest terms possible.

Outcome of the Inquiry

On 11 February, 2015 the AHRC report, The Forgotten Children, was tabled in Parliament. The St Vincent de Paul Society welcomed the report and the fact it supported our recommendations. The AHRC recommended that all children and families in detention, in Australia and Nauru, be released into the community immediately; for all Christmas Island detention facilities to be closed; and for a Royal Commission to examine the long-term impacts on the physical and mental health of children immigration detention.

The Society was also a signatory to a joint statement issued by over 200 community organisations on 13 February, 2015. The statement supported the AHRC report and urged the Australian Parliament to introduce legislation to prevent children from being detained for immigration purposes in the future; end the offshore processing of asylum claims and return all asylum seekers currently subject to offshore processing to Australia, prioritising children and their families; and refer allegations of child sexual abuse in Australian-funded detention centres to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.