The Commission has long held serious concerns about the impact of Australia’s mandatory immigration detention system, particularly on children.
In 1999-2000 the numbers of children in detention began to significantly increase. In November 2001, when there were over 700 children in detention, Human Rights Commissioner Dr Sev Ozdowski announced an inquiry into children in immigration detention. The Inquiry published its report, A last resort? National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention, in April 2004.
In the 10 years following A last resort? the Commission has maintained ongoing work in this area. Most recently, over the last five years, in addition to holding an inquiry in 2012 into the age assessment and detention of children suspected of people smuggling, the Commission has:
- inspected immigration detention facilities and reported on conditions of detention, including for children:
- on Christmas Island (in 2010 and in 2012)
- in Darwin (in 2010)
- in Leonora, Western Australia (in 2011), and
- at Villawood (in 2011)
- made submissions to parliamentary committees which raised concerns about the rights of children subject to immigration detention and/or third country processing, including submissions:
- to the Joint Select Committee on Australia’s Immigration Detention Network in 2011 (See particularly Part 4)
- to the Inquiry into Australia’s agreement with Malaysia in relation to asylum seekers in 2011
- to the Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers in 2012
- to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights on the ‘regional processing’ system for asylum seekers who arrive by boat in 2013
- intervened in the matter of Plaintiff M106/2011 v Minister for Immigration and Citizenship in the High Court of Australia, a case concerning the transfer of unaccompanied children to Malaysia in 2011
- investigated complaints made by (or on behalf of) children regarding alleged breaches of their human rights while in immigration detention, and reported on breaches, including in the reports:
• Yousefi family v Commonwealth of Australia (Department of Immigration and Citizenship) (2011)
• Miss Judy Tuifangaloka v Commonwealth of Australia (Department of Immigration & Citizenship) (2012)
• BZ and AD v Commonwealth of Australia (Department of Immigration and Citizenship) (2012)
• Immigration detainees with adverse security assessments v Commonwealth of Australia (Department of Immigration and Citizenship) (2013)
- prepared a report mapping the issues affecting asylum seekers and people in immigration detention, including specific concerns about children in detention, entitled Asylum seekers, refugees and human rights: snapshot report (2013)
The Commission’s ongoing monitoring work throughout the period since A last resort? demonstrated that serious concerns about the detention of children remained.
In April 2013, the numbers of children in closed immigration detention began reaching unprecedented levels in Australia’s history (over 1,600 on 30 April 2013, and reaching 1,992 in July 2013). In light of the significant increase in the numbers of children being detained, the Commission began planning an investigation into what has changed in terms of the situation for children in detention in the 10 years since A last resort? The Commission’s National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention 2014 was launched by President Gillian Triggs on 3 February 2014. Click here for further information about the 2014 inquiry.
For more information about children in immigration detention in Australia, and what work the Commission has done in the past in this area, click here.