National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention 2014

Drawing of girl crying behind bars by child in detentionDrawing by 9 year old girl in detention on Christmas IslandDrawing of family behind bars by child in detention

About the inquiry

On 3 February 2014 the President of the Commission, Professor Gillian Triggs, launched an inquiry into children in closed immigration detention. The purpose of this inquiry is to investigate the ways in which life in immigration detention affects the health, well-being and development of children. The inquiry will assess the impact on children by seeking the views of people who were previously detained as children in closed immigration detention and by assessing the current circumstances and responses of children to immigration detention.

The inquiry will investigate what has changed in the ten years since the Commission released A last resort? the report of the National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention in 2004. For more information about the current inquiry, see the inquiry Discussion Paper.

 

Terms of Reference for the inquiry

The President will inquire into the impact of immigration detention on the health, well-being and development of children. The President will assess whether laws, policies and practices relating to children in immigration detention meet Australia’s international human rights obligations, with particular attention to: 

  • the appropriateness of facilities in which children are detained;
  • the impact of the length of detention on children;
  • measures to ensure the safety of children;
  • provision of education, recreation, maternal and infant health services;
  • the separation of families across detention facilities in Australia;
  • the guardianship of unaccompanied children in detention in Australia;
  • assessments conducted prior to transferring children to be detained in ‘regional processing countries’; and
  • progress that has been made during the 10 years since the Commission’s 2004 report: A last resort? National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention.

‘Children’ means any person under the age of 18. Community detention is not part of the scope of this inquiry.

The National Children’s Commissioner will provide technical advice to the inquiry on the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

 

Submissions to the inquiry

Submissions to the inquiry are now closed. The inquiry received over 230 submissions from individuals and organisations. Click here to read the public submissions.

 

Public hearings

The President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Professor Gillian Triggs, has convened five public hearings of the National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention 2014 on:

  • 4 April 2014 (in Sydney)
  • 2 July 2014 (in Melbourne)
  • 31 July 2014 (in Sydney)
  • 22 August 2014 (in Canberra)
  • 9 September 2014 (in Sydney)

Click here for further information about those hearings, including transcripts of the evidence given by witnesses.

 

Expert Reports from visits to immigration detention centres

The inquiry was accompanied by various independent consultants while visiting immigration detention centres. These consultants prepared expert reports relating to these visits. Click here to read the expert reports.

 

Key Statistics from July 2014

  • 983 children in immigration detention: 775 children are held in locked immigration detention facilities in Australian territories and 208 children are held in detention in Nauru (as at 31 May 2014)
  • 304 children are detained on Christmas Island as at 31 March 2014 and are subject to offshore transfer to Nauru as prescribed by Australian Government policy
  • 54 unaccompanied children are held in immigration detention facilities in Australia (as at 31 March 2014)
  • 128 babies were born in immigration detention facilities in Australia in the period 1 January 2013 to 31 March 2014

Time in detention:

  • 321 children had been held in an immigration detention facility in Australia for more than 6 months (as at January 2014)
  • 38 children had been held in an immigration detention facility in Australia for more than one year (as at January 2014)
  • The average length of time that a child spent in an immigration detention facility in Australia as at 31 March 2014 was 231 days

Self-harm:

  • There were 128 reported actual self-harm incidents amongst children in closed immigration detention facilities in Australia from January 2013 to March 2014

Education:

  • There are 518 children of compulsory school age (5 to 17 years) in immigration detention in Australia. 338 children attend an external school at 31 March 2014.
  • School education on Christmas Island is limited to a maximum of 2 weeks per child. The average length of time that children have been detained on Christmas Island is 221.5 days. There were 160 school aged children as at 31 March 2014.

 

Snapshot of inquiry’s progress at 4 August 2014

  • Visits to 10 immigration detention facilities have been completed
  • Inquiry staff have conducted over 500 interviews with families or unaccompanied children currently in immigration detention in Australia. Approximately 1,500 individuals.
  • 38 interviews with asylum seekers who were previously in immigration detention as children or as parents have been completed
  • The President has convened three public hearings, at which a total of 40 witnesses have given evidence (transcripts available here)
  • Inquiry has received over 230 submissions (public submissions to the inquiry are being progressively published here)

 

Contacting the inquiry

If you have any questions about the inquiry, or would like to contact the inquiry team, please email ChildrenDetention@humanrights.gov.au.

 

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