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Monday, 23 June 2003
Page: 17164

Mr ORGAN (1:51 PM) —The 107 children held in Australian detention centres should be released immediately following last week's Family Court determination that their detention is illegal. The recently released ChilOut report and submissions to the HREOC inquiry into children in immigration detention document the abuse and trauma suffered by these children. The evidence is overwhelming. Immigration detention is an abusive and detrimental environment for children, trapped in isolation behind razor wire and deprived of their innocence. It is an abhorrent practice, weighing heavily on the conscience of caring Australians. Any child in detention is one child too many.

The response of the Minister for Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs to the decision is unnecessarily legalistic and lacks heart. He has stated that the release of children with their families will adversely affect the government's border protection efforts. This is an admission by the minister that the government has a specific policy, known as border protection, which justifies the abuse of children in its care. The Greens believe the government should release the children still in detention immediately, pending any decision on an appeal to a higher court. Whether the lawyers agree or not, the fact remains that the placement of children in long-term incarceration, as is presently happening in Australian detention centres, is shameful. Following on the disgrace of the Tampa and children overboard affairs, a decision by the minister and this government to appeal the Family Court decision brings further shame upon this country. It is an issue of human rights, not politics.