Child Immigration Detainees Lose Chance For Summer Freedom

04/12/2015 5:11 PM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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Fairfax/Alex Ellinghausen

CANBERRA -- With the end of the parliamentary sitting year, all remaining children in onshore Australian immigration detention have lost their chance to be freed by Christmas.

The Senate voted more than a week ago to support Greens amendments to the Migration and Maritime Powers Amendment Bill which would have led to the release of the last 112 child detainees who have parents or guardians with adverse security assessments from ASIO.

The amended legislation, with other amendments to allow journalists inside detention centres and make the reporting of abuse in centres mandatory, had to pass the Government-controlled House of Representatives.

Despite lower house approval being unlikely, the legislation was not dealt with before parliament rose for 2015.

“It is a real disappointment that Malcolm Turnbull has made a decision to keep these children locked up over Christmas,” Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young told the Huffington Post Australia.

“It would have been one simple vote to accept the Senate’s amendments.

“More than 100 children here in Australia will remain over the summer locked up.”

detention cartoon

The amended legislation, supported by Labor and most of the crossbenchers, would remove the Immigration Minister’s requirement to make a determination in such cases involving children in onshore detention and allow the minor to make the choice whether to stay or go.

It would apply to children in families transferred from Nauru, but not to children currently detained on the Pacific island nation.

The office of Immigration Minister Peter Dutton told HuffPost Australia that no decision has been made on the legislation.

In a statement, the Immigration Department said child detainees do have outside access, although one excursion program in Melbourne had been recently discontinued.

"All children in immigration detention facilities continue to have access to external activities, excursions and education,"it said.

"The Department is committed to a compassionate approach to the care of those in detention. Where children are concerned this includes providing opportunities for social development and community engagement."

The Greens Friday are launching its annual toy drive for detained children.

Senator Hanson-Young told HuffPost Australia that the children must not be forgotten.

“They have every right to be able to have their freedom realised, to be able to be kids. Live safely in the community,” she said.

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