Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has announced that some young children and their families currently being held in detention camps for asylum seekers will be released and allowed to integrate with the Australian community later this year.
The decision applies to children held in detention centres on the Australian mainland, but not those held in the controversial off-shore processing centres, such as that on Nauru.
Nonetheless, Professor Gillian Triggs, President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, welcomed Mr Morrison’s announcement.
“A primary objective of the Commission’s National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention (2014) has been to see the release of all children in detention and this goes some way to achieving this aim.
“The Minister has indicated that those released into the community will be granted bridging visas while they wait for their refugee status to be assessed. Under current policy, the adult family members will not have work rights. The Commission is concerned that the level of financial assistance provided to people on bridging visas is inadequate to meet basic needs and children may be moved into difficult financial circumstances,” said the Australian Human Rights Commission’s statement.
The Commission also urged Government to allow these asylum seekers to work while on their bridging visa and also that the 30,000 refugee applications awaiting a decision are processed as soon as possible.
But Professor Triggs said that while the decision was welcomed the Department of Immigration and Border Protection’s announcement, it remained concerned about the fate of those vulnerable children over the age of 10.
The Human Rights Commission’s statement said that, “Approximately 500 children who arrived in Australian after 19 July, 2013 will remain in indefinite detention. The majority of these children are locked in inappropriate conditions on Christmas Island or in tents on Nauru. Data from the detention health services shows that these children have deteriorating mental health.
“These matters will be discussed at a fourth and final public hearing on Friday, 22 August 2014 in Canberra as part of the National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention (2014).”
This will be a public hearing which Morrison will attend with members of the Minister’s Council on Asylum Seekers and the Managing Director of MAXimus Solutions who are responsible for providing support to unaccompanied children in immigration detention.
This hearing on 22 August is open to the public and will start at 9am at Parliament House in Canberra.