ONE CHILD IN DETENTION IS ONE TOO MANY.
18 January 2016
Dear Prime Minister Turnbull
I am writing to follow up on the letter that was sent to you on 23 December calling for the release of children from detention centres in the holiday period. The letter has over 900 signatures from the nation’s academic community, including Australia’s leading minds whose expertise spans the legal rights of children, childhood psychologists and public policy experts. That letter is athttps://academicsforrefugees.wordpress.com along with the list of signatories.
To date, we have received no response from you and only one formal response from your Government, from Senator Abetz, which fails to address our concerns about the welfare of children in detention. His response is copied below.
We are concerned that your Government is fundamentally disregarding the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Every child has rights, and Australia has corresponding duties.
We appreciate that the numbers of children in detention have been reduced. While numbers are important, one child in detention is one too many.
Evidence from the recent Moss, Australian Human Rights Commission, and Senate inquiries demonstrates incontrovertibly that the circumstances under which children are detained in Australia and on Nauru do not conform to any human right standards, let alone the requirements for the needs of children.
There is no way that children’s rights to care, protection, and normal human development can be ensured in detention in Australia or Nauru. To the contrary, we have considerable evidence of the psychological and emotional harm to children resulting from detention. Research on adults released from long-term detention tells us that many will never recover from their experience. We are – right now – committing children to the same fate.
We are concerned that each day is doing incalculable emotional, psychological, neurological, and physical damage to young vulnerable people, at a time when they most need security and care.
We now respectfully and urgently request that you release children in onshore detention and in the Nauru OPC by the end of the holiday period, as children throughout Australia prepare to go back to school.
One child in detention is one too many.
Professor Philomena Murray
The University of Melbourne.