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2010 Media Release: Concerns raised about Darwin immigration detention facilities

Asylum Asylum Seekers and Refugees

The Australian Human Rights Commission has raised concerns about the high numbers of families with children and unaccompanied minors being held for longer periods of time in immigration detention facilities in Darwin.

In a statement on the Commission’s visit to immigration detention facilities in Darwin, Commission President Catherine Branson QC said she was concerned about the impacts prolonged detention were having on the health, education and psychological needs of children.

She also called on the Australian Government to stop using the Asti Motel as an immigration detention facility as soon as possible.

“There were more than 170 people detained in the Asti Motel when we visited in September, including more than 80 young children and unaccompanied minors,” she said.

“It is a very cramped environment. The outdoor areas are all paved or concrete and there are no open grassy areas for children to play.

“The Commission acknowledges the significant efforts of detention staff who are working in challenging circumstances,” Ms Branson said.

“The Commission welcomed the Minister’s October announcement that some families with children and unaccompanied minors will be moved into Community Detention.

“However, the conditions of detention for some children in Darwin underline the need to implement this initiative as quickly as possible.”

Ms Branson said the Commission continued to have serious concerns about Australia’s mandatory immigration detention system, in particular, the increasing length of time people were spending in immigration detention and the impacts of prolonged and indefinite detention on people’s mental health.

“The Commission met with a number of people in detention, including children, who had experienced significant trauma in their home country or who had attempted self-harm while in detention,” Ms Branson said.

“The Commission continues to call on the Australian Government to reconsider the mandatory detention system.

“People should only be held in immigration detention if there is a risk that justifies detaining them,” she said.

“If no such risk exists, they should be allowed to reside in community-based alternatives to detention while their refugee claims are assessed.”

The Commission’s statement can be found at www.humanrights.gov.au/human_rights/immigration/idc2010_darwin.html

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Media contact: Louise McDermott (02) 9284 9851 or 0419 258 597