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Time's up on children in detention.



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DEMOCRATS MEDIA 04/459 THURSDAY 10 JUNE 2004 SENATOR ANDREW BARTLETT LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN DEMOCRATS & SPOKESPERSON ON IMMIGRATION Time's up on children in detention The Australian Democrats have again condemned the Government policy of locking up innocent children. Today is the deadline set by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) for children to be taken out of detention. Leader of the Democrats, Senator Andrew Bartlett, has described the prolonged detention of children as 'Government child abuse'. "There have been many reports and studies over the years that prove child detainees are being harmed by detention itself, as well as exposure to violence, riots and self-mutilation in the centres," Senator Bartlett said. “The Government justifies its abuse of children by saying it deters people smugglers. I don’t believe this is true, but in any case, no policy that causes massive damage and suffering to innocent children is justifiable.” Senator Bartlett, who has visited every detention centre in Australia as well as Nauru, challenged the Minister for Immigration to meet with the children, hear their questions and their cries and then defend the Government's policy. "The distress and trauma of the children and mothers, even in residential housing detention is plain to see. Government claims that residential detention means women and children live 'largely within the community' are simply not true. Women and children are separated from the husband and older children, are not free to come and go from their houses and are allowed out only on limited occasions with continual supervision. "Whilst Labor is justly critical of the Government on children in detention, they passed the legislation that allows detention in the first place and their current policy still does not go far enough. There are more than 150 children in detention centres in Australia, Nauru and Christmas Island, including some who are unaccompanied minors. Australia is the only country that places children in long term detention, where they can remain for years if their parents are assessed as not being refugees. "That children, most of whom are under 12 years of age, have been in the Nauru detention centre for two and a half years, is appalling.” Senator Bartlett concluded. What: Senator Bartlett will be one of the community leaders calling for the release of all children from detention. 162 children will symbolically represent a detainee child or infant. When: 4pm Thursday, 10 June 2004. (Senator Bartlett to speak at 4.45pm) Where: Sydney Square, between Town Hall and St Andrew’s Cathedral. Media Contact - Rowena Bew - 0400 729 555