Children in Detention

06 July 2004

The Uniting Church today welcomed new figures from the Federal Government that show only one asylum seeker child remains in detention, but warned the figures only paint a half truth when it comes to Australia's mandatory detention policy.

Uniting Church National President, Rev. Dr Dean Drayton, said he was heartened by the reduction in the number of asylum seeker children in Australia's detention centres but warned many forgotten children remained locked behind bars.

"The Church, along with many other groups, has been saying for years that there are better ways to deal with families who arrive in Australia seeking asylum than locking them up in detention centres.

"We are pleased the Government has shown common sense and released most asylum seeker children from detention. However, many children who have been refused visas remain locked up in detention while appeals are heard or arrangements are made for them to return home," Rev. Drayton said.

"As a decent and caring country, we have an obligation to look after these children and provide a safe environment for them even if their applications for asylum are being appealed – children should never be locked behind bars.

"We call on the Government to take the next step and release all children and their families from detention."

UnitingJustice Director, Rev Elenie Poulos, said by detaining children whose applications were being appealed, the Government was setting a reprehensible double standard.

"The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Report into Children in Detention painted a terrible picture of life for children who are held in Australia's detention centres,

"Now, the Government has virtually admitted it's wrong to detain children by allowing them into alternative arrangements, but it refuses to apply these rules across the board.

"Detention centres are horrendous places, where children suffer physical and mental abuse. No child, no matter what their circumstance, should be subjected to this. Governments do not have the right to make an arbitrary decision that discriminates between children in such a way," Rev Poulos said.