All people, regardless on their stance on keeping Asylum Seekers in detention centres can agree on one thing; keeping children locked up in detention centres during the most pivotal stages of their development is detrimental to their growth as a person. Yet the Australian Government still insists on keeping children in detention, offshore as well as onshore. Australia needs to stand up as a nation and let the Government know that we do not agree with their archaic policies that should not exist in the 21st century.
Manus Island is one of the sites that Australia uses to process asylum seekers, and there have been reports of the horrendous living conditions that Asylum Seekers are being forced to endure while being detained here. The poor living conditions endured by the Asylum Seekers include; very limited personal space as one dormitory houses roughly 112 detainees, extreme water restrictions of less than 500ml of drinking water each day per person, even in the humidity and heat of Manus Island, there is little help for those suffering from mental health problems, including severe depression, anxiety and trauma. The conditions on Manus Island are similar across other mandatory detention facilities offshore, including those that children are held in. This is a humanitarian disaster, being ignored by a majority of the Australian population, and when the Australian Human Rights Commission decided to launch a report into the effects that being held in detention centres has on children, the President of the Commission was allegedly asked to resign by the Attorney-General of Australia in an alleged attempt to prevent the report and reports similar to it from going ahead. A person such as the Attorney-General trying to keep hidden information from the public is absolutely despicable. All members of the Australian public who agree should join Amnesty International’s campaign and educate themselves as much as possible on the plight of Asylum Seekers and assist in spreading awareness through the public on the issue.
Latest figures from the Australian Human Rights Commission shows that Australia currently holds 647 children in closed detention, 500 of which are on the mainland, 147 on Christmas Island and a further 222 children on Nauru. The knowledge that children exist in such dreadful conditions is enough to make me feel sick in my stomach, and it angers me to know that the Government is refusing to distinguish how many claims of sexual assault and abuse have been made by children living in offshore detention. Just when you think it cannot get worse the reality of the situation hits you across the face with more saddening facts.
Living in offshore detention centres result in most of these children developing serious mental illnesses, with some children as young as nine attempting to take their own lives. The Department of Immigration itself has reports of 128 incidents of self-harm by children over the age of fifteen months. Paediatricians who have studied into the conditions in offshore detention believe that the mandatory detention of asylum seeker children constitutes as being ‘child abuse’, one doctor concluded after visiting Christmas Island that ‘almost all the children are sick’, Christmas Island is a part of Australia, and if that is what it is like in Australia imagine offshore in places like Nauru or Manus Island. Australia needs to cease offshore processing and eliminate the population of children in detention centres; to do this Australia would need to accelerate its assessment of the refugee status of these desperate people who fleeing from violence or war within their home countries.
The longer that a child remains in a detention centre, the worse the effects on the psyche and physical development of the child. Children emerging from detention centres have been shown to have little understanding of respect for others, as they have witnessed their parents being verbally harassed by ‘Immigration’ staff, the children have been dehumanised, known by numbers not names, separated from their families from extended periods of time, and subjected to constant surveillance and control. Despite the overwhelming evidence of the detrimental effects of keeping a child in what is effectively a prison, there has been little effort by the Government to pass legislation eradicating the population of children and their families in detention centres offshore.
In the end of the day, the most important thing is not ‘stopping the boats’ but ensuring the safety of all people. Sometimes, to ensure that all people are safe we need to make sacrifices and use our compassion to follow in the footsteps of Mary Ward to push for justice, even if the Governing body of nation disagrees with our moral ideals.
For those who’ve come across the seas we’ve boundless plains to share
Australian National Anthem
By Charlotte Ainsworth