The Commission has urged the federal Government not to detain asylum seeker families at high security immigration detention facilities. Additionally, where they are granted bridging visas to live in the community, they should be provided with work rights and adequate support.
Commission President, Professor Gillian Triggs, said she has serious concerns about the Government’s announcement that families with children will be detained at the Curtin and Wickham Point detention facilities.
“Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Australia is obligated not to hold children in immigration detention facilities unless it is a measure of last resort,” Professor Triggs said. “Curtin, in particular, is remote, isolated, in a very harsh environment and is no place for children.”
Professor Triggs acknowledged there had been positive changes since the Commission’s National Inquiry into children in immigration detention, almost a decade ago, found that children who spent long periods of time in remote detention centres were at serious risk of mental harm.
“We have welcomed the increased use of the community detention system for families and unaccompanied minors, yet we now have more children in immigration detention facilities than ever before,” Professor Triggs said. “The government should dedicate resources to ensuring that all families and unaccompanied minors are able to live in community-based arrangements, rather than reconfiguring high security detention centres to detain families.”
The Commission welcomes the use of bridging visas as a more humane and effective approach to the treatment of asylum seekers than holding them in detention facilities for long and indefinite periods of time. However, it has significant concerns about how asylum seekers – particularly families with children – will fare in the community if adults are not granted permission to work to support their families.
“Access to work is a basic human rights issue,” Professor Triggs said. “While asylum seekers granted bridging visas may be eligible for some government support, we are concerned about the adequacy of this support and, in the case of asylum seekers who have arrived by boat after 13 August last year, that they will not be granted work rights.”
Professor Triggs said it was essential that asylum seekers granted bridging visas are provided with adequate support. She said that they should be able to undertake meaningful activities and use their skills to actively engage with and contribute to the communities they live in.