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Self-harm and suicide attempts by children in detention: the price of Australia's exercise in paranoia.

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Senator Andrew Bartlett Australian Democrats’ Immigration Spokesperson

21 May 2002 MEDIA RELEASE 02/255

Self-harm and suicide attempts by children in detention - the price of Australia’s exercise in paranoia

The Howard/Costello Government continues to ignore the plight and suffering of children forcibly detained for indefinite periods in Australia’s hostile and inhumane detention centres, according to the Australian Democrats.

Democrats’ Immigration spokesperson, Senator Andrew Bartlett, was commenting on the release of the Catholic Commission of Justice, Development and Peace’s report into children in detention. The report highlights the horrendous levels of self-harm involving children in detention.

“More and more evidence is coming to light detailing the truth behind the Australian Government’s oppressive detention practices, including an ever-increasing number of children engaging in acts of self harm and suicide attempts,” said Senator Andrew Bartlett.

“Children as young as three years of age are engaging in acts of self-harm and attempted suicide as a direct result of their despair at being forcibly incarcerated for indefinite periods of time.

“The many hundreds of children currently in detention are there because they accompanied their families to Australia - in the hope they would all find asylum in a new land.

“How much longer can the Australian Government preside over such an intolerable and cruel situation?”

Senator Bartlett said, “The Howard/Costello Government refuses to listen to reason. The voices of outrage from prominent Australian and international community and political leaders, community service organisations, religious groups, and humanitarian organisations continue to be ignored.

“Clearly the Government is suppressing the truth in order to deceive and manipulate the Australian public for its own political expediency.

“The evidence is clear - the Howard/Costello Government is prepared to do nothing about children engaged in acts of self-harm and suicide attempts while in detention, illustrating that it sees this as a legitimate price for maintaining Australia’s security,” concluded Senator Bartlett.

Senator Bartlett will be speaking about these and other matters of major concern at a public meeting tonight in Brisbane’s City Hall from 6.30 p.m.

Please note: Justice for Refugees public meeting to be held between 6.30 p.m. and 8.30 p.m. on Tuesday 21 May 2002 - speakers include: Sharan Burrow, President, Australian Council of Trade Unions; Mungo McCallum, political journalist and broadcaster; Ghulam Sakhi Hazara, Hazara artist; and Senator Andrew Bartlett, the Australian Democrats’ spokesperson for immigration.

For further information contact: Senator Andrew Bartlett on 0418 743 789