Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Children freed after DIMIA realises mistake -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

Children freed after DIMIA realises mistake

Reporter: Andrew Fowler

TONY JONES: Two young children, who were seized from school four months ago and placed in Sydney's
Villawood detention centre with their mother, are free tonight after a surprise decision by the
Department of Immigration. It's now understood the department made a mistake when it took the
children into custody, and there is now a question about whether the family will seek compensation
for their time in custody.

This report by Andrew Fowler from the ABC's Investigative Unit.

ANDREW FOWLER: A long walk into the cold Sydney night and freedom for a six-year-old girl, her
11-year-old brother and their mother. After the bleakness of their incarceration, the joy of

IAN WHANG: We're very happy, yeah. We'd like to thank all of the people that helped me out.

ANDREW FOWLER: And the expectation by a child that his life just might start returning to normal.

IAN WHANG: Yeah, I'm happy to go back to school. Yeah, I'm really excited.

ANDREW FOWLER: These are the children snatched from Sydney's Stanmore school by Immigration
Department officials just four months ago. They were taken to Villawood detention centre and the
way they were taken caused a furore.

FRAN LARKINS, SCHOOL PRINCIPAL: It was very disturbing at the time and it's not something I've ever
come across before in my entire service.

ANDREW FOWLER: The Immigration Department officials arrived unannounced to pick up the children
after their mother was stopped at Sydney Airport with a visa violation. Refugee advocates
questioned why the children couldn't have been allowed to go home with their aunties where they
were staying while the department decided what to do over their mother's immigration problems,
instead of taking them from the school.

Inside Villawood they got a glimpse of life that at their tender age they should never have seen.

IAN WHANG: It was pretty bad, yeah. I had to face some bad things, oh, like where someone tried to
commit suicide, yeah. A lot of things like that.

ANDREW FOWLER: Now after four months, Ian and his sister are trying to put the bad memories behind

IAN WHANG: She's really happy, yeah. She's excited.

ANDREW FOWLER: It's a normal response for any six-year-old kept apart from her mates.

JANIE WHANG: Getting out and seeing or visit my friends.

ANDREW FOWLER: So how did it get to this? Michaela Byers, the family lawyer, only just managed to
stop the family from being deported a short while ago. The fact that Janie was born in Australia
helped her case, but in the end it was a call from the Immigration Department, not the court, that
ended the family's nightmare.

MICHAELA BYERS, FAMILY LAWYER: There's been review of their files, meaning their parents' previous
visa applications, in which they've found that there was an error. So since 1998, technically, the
family have been holding bridging visas and have not been illegal.

They've been in detention for four months so the department has had many opportunities to review
their file and it appears that they only realised within the past couple of days that there had
been an administrative error.

ANDREW FOWLER: The Immigration Department simply said that the family's case had been reviewed but
declined to discuss details.

MICHAELA BYERS: The children will be released with bridging visas. Their mother is the appropriate
guardian so she'll be released without a bridging visa into community detention.

MRS WHANG: I'm very happy. Everything. Thank you. Thank you about help for Michaela and Kathy.

KATHY: Michaela, for Michaela.

MICHAELA BYERS: No, no, it was a team effort. It's really good that you're out.

KATHY: Are you going to be coming back tomorrow, aren't you, kids?


KATHY: And I think they're going to be so excited. I think the whole school's just going to be
really happy and really excited to see them back?

ANDREW FOWLER: After four months in detention, home to try to pick up the pieces of their lives.