Skip to main content

Search

Commission Website: National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention

Click here to return to the Submission Index

Submission to Human Rights

and Equal Opportunities Commission's

National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention

Keysar Trad (Vice President

of the Lebanese Muslims Association)

3 May 2002

Introduction

My name is Keysar

Trad. I am the Vice President of the Lebanese Muslims Association in Sydney.

The Lebanese Muslims Association was established in 1961 by a group of

Lebanese Muslim citizens to advocate on behalf of Lebanese and other Muslims

in the Australian community. We have over 1100 financial members and over

tens of thousands who use our facilities on festive occasions, many or

our members (financial and non financial) meet at our mosques five times

a day to offer worship and over 5000 members meet every Friday at midday

for worship services. We also conduct other meetings and frequent social

gatherings and are in regular contact with other Muslims (not just Lebanese)

from around Australia and the world etc. In the last three years I have

received a number of disturbing complaints regarding the treatment of

detainees, particularly child detainees, in Immigration Detention Centres

(IDCs) around Australia.

The following submission

contains the substance of some of these complaints. It relates them to

two areas identified in the HREOC Inquiry's Terms of Reference: 'Culture

and Identity' and 'Mental Health and Development'. Evidence presented

here is primarily from faxes or phone calls I have received from detainees

in IDCs around Australia, as well as supporting evidence from publications

and letters from DIMIA. The detainees' communications detail their own

first hand experiences of living in IDCs. The published material corroborates

many of their complaints and the replies from DIMIA indicate the unsatisfactory

way with which these complaints have been dealt.

[Identifying details

removed]

PRESERVATION OF CULTURE AND

IDENTITY

Under the Article

8 of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child, Australia must ensure

that every child in Australia, regardless of nationality or immigration

status and regardless of how the child arrived in Australia, enjoys access

to their culture and identity without discrimination of any kind[1].

Under this Convention Australia is obliged to ensure the right of children

belonging to ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities to enjoy their

culture, use their language and practise their religion together with

other members of their group. The Convention also recognises the right

of parents to provide "appropriate direction and guidance" to their children

in maintaining their own religion and culture[2].

However it would

appear that these conventions have been breached on a number of occasions

in Australian IDCs. Child refugees' rights to the preservation of their

religion and their parents' rights to help them in this, would seem to

be undermined by allowing evangelical Christians to convert Muslims in

IDCs, while denying Muslim religious teachers access to IDCs on the unfounded

fear that they would "proselytise". The April Issue of Southern Cross

Magazine has a feature on Iranian Muslims who converted to Christianity

in the detention centres. One such convert, Iranian-born [man], is quoted

as saying that visitors "from the Persian Church" discussed the Bible

with him in Farsi and "After talking to [them] ... he was convicted (sic)

to accept Jesus into his life". The article relates that he has since

left Villawood Detention Centre on a TPV and has joined the Evangelical

Persian Church at St John's, Parramatta[3].

This would appear

to be a clear case of evangelising being allowed within the confines of

an IDC. It is corroborated by a segment which was featured on ABC radio

National's religious program, the Religion Report (http://www.abc.net.au/rn/talks/8.30/relrpt/stories/s485645.htm)

on Wednesday the 20th of February about the growing Christian converts

among the asylum seekers in the Woomera detention centre. The program

also interviewed the Immigration Minister, Philip Ruddock about this issue,

confirming his knowledge of the issue.

The ABC report stated

that inside the Woomera IDC at that time, there were between eight and

ten prisoners who had taken all the steps towards being received into

the Catholic church, including baptism and confirmation, and that another

15 were at different stages of receiving instruction. The first convert

at Woomera had been baptised about 18 months ago by the Bishop of Port

Pirie, [name removed]. The report also suggested that the conversions

were not confined to Woomera: at Port Headland, several have been baptised

into the Uniting Church.

The Lebanese Muslim

Association understands that all the different religious practices of

asylum seekers should be supported while they are in detention. We do

not object to DIMIA providing prayer rooms, and access for visiting chaplains,

including those from the various Christian denominations who give comfort

and support in a wide range of ways. We know that a significant minority

of the detainees are not Muslims. However it would seem that some such

as the Persian Evangelical Christian church connected with the Sydney

Anglicans, working out of St John's Anglican Cathedral in Parramatta are

actively proselytising. The ABC 'Religion Report' stated that "As well

as providing clothes and toys, they circulate correspondence courses on

basic Christianity to detention camps around Australia. All told they

say, 200 detainees have done the course". The number of baptisms of ex-Muslims

into the Catholic Church is also a matter for concern.

Furthermore, it would

seem that Muslim community leaders and clerics are not allowed to provide

Islamic services and counselling to those detained Muslim asylum seekers

in Australia on an equal basis as Christian clerics. The Immigration Minister,

Phillip Ruddock. Minister, was interviewed on the program and confirmed

that the Federal government is aware of these conversions. He stated that

while some people might convert in a misguided effort to increase the

success of their applications that "you also have people who find in a

detention environment that perhaps with the solace they receive and the

assistance they receive from others, that they're prepared to be involved

in a conversion... people can be the subject of conversions, it may be

that they've never heard the message before and it has a particular impact

upon them..." Yet the Mufty of Australia was refused the same opportunity

to provide "solace" to Muslims detainees in Villawood. [Name removed],

the Mufty of Australia spoke to Minister Ruddock at a meeting held on

10 June-2000 asking if he could visit detainees in stages 1 and 2 of Villawood

to provide "spiritual and ethical guidance", the minister informed the

Mufty that such a visit may be seen as proselytising. After further concerns

were raised by asylum seekers at Villawood IDC, the Mufty wrote to [name

removed], the ACM manager of Villawood telling him of his meeting with

the Minister and requesting visiting rights (see Appendix 2). I contacted

Villawood two weeks after this letter, I was told that it was referred

to DIMA who referred it to Canberra - apparently they did not have the

authority to make a decision without referring the matter to the minister.

The answer came later that they could not allow the Mufty to make an official

visit as this could be seen as proselytising. It would seem that the Minister

on this occasion was not prepared to allow Muslim detainees the "solace"

of their own religion. Yet on other occasions such as the Radio National

'Religion Report' he seems to support similar efforts by Christian clerics.

This contravenes the prohibition against discrimination on religious grounds

in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Refugee Convention and

Australian law.

There is also a lack

of religious spaces set aside that are specifically for Muslims (which

recently has been the majority of detainees in Australian IDCs, Muslims

for long periods had to use a recreation room for congregational prayers

and there were complaints that others would have the television on and

this would interfere with the performance of their prayers. In April 2000

I wrote to Minister Ruddock and the ACM Manager of Villawood requesting

the setting aside of a prayer room of adequate size to accommodate all

the Muslim detainees in stage 1 of Villawood IDC (a copy of the letter

is attached as Appendix 1 at the end of this submission). The reply to

this letter came from Senator Kay Patterson who was the parliamentary

secretary to Minister Ruddock. She refused the request saying, however,

that there may be some room that may be multipurpose when stage one of

Villawood was renovated. However the very idea of a separate prayer space

for Muslims seems to be repudiated in 2001when more than twenty people

broke out of Villawood. Minister Ruddock said in interviews with the media

that the escapees used the Villawood "mosque" to escape. There was no

mosque, just a multipurpose hall that was also used by the Muslims as

a prayer space.

The absence of adequate

facilities such a separate prayer space make parents' transmission and

maintenance of their religious traditions to their children more difficult,

for example, in Islam, prayers are physical as well as verbal and spiritual,

due to the nature of the prayers, men and women tend to pray in separate

distinct sections of a prayer hall. In addition, the presence of people

who are actively converting Muslims to Christianity in the IDCs also makes

it difficult for parents to maintain and transmit their own religion to

their children. The pressure to convert is increased by the notion that

it might increase peoples' chances of success in applying for refugee

status. Children are not excluded from proselytised to and this also mitigates

against the preservation of their original religion and culture, breaching

the Convention of the Rights of the Child.

Of even more serious

concern is the discrimination, resulting in physical violence, that appears

to have been directed against people while they were at prayer, in particular

Palestinians, in Port Headland IRPC last year.

On the morning of

Saturday the 31st of May 2001 at approximately 5:30 am, male detainees

went towards the prayer hall to perform the early morning prayer. They

were denied entry so they decided to pray in their block in groups of

ten as the available room in the block could not accommodate prayers of

more than ten at a time. As soon as the detainees commenced their Salaat

(prayer), their block was stormed by approximately 170 officers believed

to be from a number of agencies. The officers stopping the detainees from

praying and then went about kicking doors open and ordering people to

lie face down on the ground. If people were prostrate in prayer, the officers

would not let them continue praying. Any movement by detainees was met

with threats, intimidation and some were struck with batons.

When the officers

told detainees to lay down on their faces, many of the detainees did not

understand the officer's instruction being yelled at them in English and,

as a result, the detainees kneeled and placed their arms over their heads.

Detainees said that the officers came at them and kicked them down flat

on their faces. Detainees said that the guards specifically asked for

Palestinians and began kicking Palestinian detainees in the head and body.

As detainees were kicked to the ground, their hands were cuffed behind their

backs, one arm taken from over their shoulder and the other from behind

their backs, their ankles were then taken and chained to their hands. Detainees

were kept in this position, some for 4 hours and others until midday. Some

officers placed their feet on the backs and heads of detainees and kept

their feet on their backs for some time. Detainees in this position were

not allowed to move, those who needed to go to the toilet were taken to

the toilet and were forced to go with the door open, even women were not

allowed to close the toilet door.

Detainees complained that steel batons were used against

them[5]. One ACM official placed his baton

on the bottom of a detainee and pushed the baton and threatened to ram

it into the rectum of the detainee. Detainees also complained that their

rooms were searched by officers without the detainee allowed to see what

was happening. A 70 year old woman who was praying in her room was dragged

out of her room as it was searched. In many cases, the detainees lost

personal items, during the search, like spectacles. They also complained

about finding their clothing on the ground with shoe prints on them.

Detainees reported that during this raid, 22 of their

number were arrested, including a family. The father and mother, [names

removed] and their adolescent children. The mother was accused by ACM

as being an organiser behind the hunger strikes which had recently occurred

in the centre. (Detainees stated that they had been on a peaceful hunger

strike before the incident. They said that officers accused them of forcing

children not to eat, which they said was untrue).

The [family's] two other children, a girl [age removed]

and a boy [age removed] were left at the Port Headland detention centre

without their parents and without any other relatives to look after them,

this was their case for several days. They were looked after by other

detainees, I do not know when their parents were released or how long

they were kept away from their children. These two young children refused

to eat and were unable to sleep for a number of days after the event,

this remained their condition until at least Wednesday which was the last

time that I had contact with detainees at Port Headland in relation to

this incident. The children of nightmares in which they saw their mother

being hit with batons by the officers. They said this vision was incessant

and occurred every time they tried to sleep.

As Vice President of the Lebanese Muslim Association,

I was first alerted to this incident by a detainee who contacted me on

the 28th of May. I asked him to write a statement, sign it and fax it

to me. He advised me in a telephone conversation of 30 May that he had

done this on 28 May and that the statement was signed by witnesses and

that he had given the statement to the IDC officers to fax to me. I advised

him that I had not received this statement. The detainee asked the officers

about the fax and were told it would be sent, the fax was finally sent

on 6 June 2001 and it bore the approximately 50 signatures to support

the statements therein. The detainees asked for an independent Judicial

Committee to inquire into the running of the Port Headland IRPC and of

all detention centres in Australia. So far there has been no such independent

investigation of these very serious allegations.

This incident illustrates the unsympathetic environment

in which parents struggle to pass on their religion and cultural identity

to their children. Prayers are interrupted by military-style raids; those

prostate in prayer are kicked, bound and left on the ground; and people

are victimised on the basis of their identification with a particular

nationality and culture (in this case Palestinian); adolescent children

are jailed with their parents and young children are separated from the

rest of their immediate family. Apart from the violation of Australian

law and common decency that occurred during this raid, Article 3(1) of

the Convention on the Rights of the Child (hereafter CRC) was also violated.

It states that: "In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken

by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative

authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall

be a primary consideration". This "best interests" rule means that children

have a right to "grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of

happiness, love and understanding" (Preamble to the CRC).

The CRC recognises that all actions concerning child

asylum seekers must respect the responsibilities, rights and duties of

parents and families to provide direction to a child in the exercise of

her or his rights (articles 5, 9 and 18 of the CRC). The CRC recognises

the family as "the fundamental group of society" and recognises children's

rights in the context of parental rights and duties. These events at Port

Headland IDC on the 31st of May, 2001 make these conventions to which

Australia is a signatory sound like bitter irony.

MENTAL HEALTH AND DEVELOPMENT

The Convention on the Rights of the Child obliges Australia

to protect children from sexual exploitation and abuse. [6]

In many IDCs child asylum seekers face threats from other detainees, including

the threat of sexual abuse. The Australian government seems to be doing

little to prevent the rape of children in our IDCs as described in the

following account.

On Friday the 18th of January 2002, at Curtain IDC, three

detainees of Sri Lankan origin allegedly sexually assaulted a [young]

Iraqi asylum seeker after detaining him in their room. The 5 year-old

boy had been held at the Curtain detention centre with [the rest of his

family] for a period exceeding ten months. During their detention with

large groups of male detainees of various nationalities, the little boys

and the young lady of this family were the subject of constant sexual

harassment culminating in this alleged sexual assault. For several months

preceding the assault, repeated requests had been made to the Immigration

Department to move the family to a detention centre that was more accessible

to their boys' step father, an Australian citizen and his four Australian

step brothers. But all these requests had been refused.

During the assault, the boy stated that he was forced

by the three men to look at a pornographic magazine depicting graphic

sexual acts. The three men then stripped the boy and forced him to copy

the sexual acts with them.

The family lodged a complaint on the evening of Friday

the 18th of January with Australasian Correctional Management staff (ACM)

the security company that manages the detention centre of oral and anal

penile penetration of a [young] boy by three male Sri Lankan detainees.

The mother of the boy contacted me on Sunday afternoon Sydney time concerned

that nothing had been done to pursue their complaint.

I contacted people in Immigration (DIMIA) and also the

Derby police (Derby is the suburb in Western Australia where Curtin Detention

Centre is located). I also contacted a journalist from the SMH who also

contacted DIMIA. DIMIA did not reply to my query while the Derby police

told me that the matter had been referred to the federal police on Saturday

morning (The 19th of Jan 2002).

For three days the police did not interview the family

and the little boy did not receive any medical treatment or examination.

The boy suffered anal bleeding, was having terrible problems with his

toilet functions and was unable to sleep at night because he was now experiencing

terrible nightmares.

It was only after the journalist made his enquiries with

the Canberra office of DIMIA, that the family was immediately moved to

a closed section of the camp and the alleged perpetrators were also moved

to a different section, on Sunday the 20th of January.

The doctor finally examined the boy in the week commencing

the 21st. However he refused to examine his anus and refused to take saliva

samples. The mother kept pleading with the doctor to examine the bleeding,

the doctor told her to ignore it, it could be the result of a scratch

or something. He just refused to do the required examination.

Later that week, the alleged perpetrators were released

back to the main section of the camp and so was the family. The allegations

were then checked by the Derby police (not the federal police AND NOT

POLICE TRAINED IN THE INVESTIGATION OF CHILD ABUSE?). They found that

there were no witnesses to "indecent exposure", so the men were sent free.

The Derby police also told the mother of the boy that [her son and another

child] both went to the room of these men, woke them up from their sleep

and started undressing them and fondling them. They described the family

as "trouble makers" and declared the alleged perpetrators to be innocent

to the committee of refugees inside the centre (this is a committee made

up of detainees to represent the needs fellow asylum seekers with both

DIMIA and ACM).

The mother says that the boy never had access to pornographic

material before the arrival of these men. They had moved from country

to country in refugee camps since the five year old boy was two. They

did not have satellite tv or pornographic magazines and the boy's father

had been disappeared since the boy was one year of age (believed arrested

by Iraqi security services). She insists the boy would not know of such

things. The boy himself clearly stated that the men produced a pornographic

magazine and forced him to copy the acts depicted therein.

When pushed to comment on the sexual assault a spokesman

for DIMIA said that they found no evidence for indecent exposure. He said

that they would not investigate the alleged assault unless the family

lodged another complaint of sexual assault. This statement was reported

by the West Australian newspaper on 31 January 02 (though the article

mistakes the mother's nationality [details removed]). The mother's two

clear statements with the help of two translators yet her charges of rape

and sexual assault was changed into indecent exposure. The allegations

of oral and anal penetration were clearly conveyed.

This alleged assault and the official response to it

raises a number of serious concerns about existing protocols for handling

allegations of sexual assault of children in IDCs. There appears to be

a large difference between the way such allegations are treated in IDCs

and the way they are treated in the outside Australian community. Child

sexual assault victims are usually handled with great care. Great care

especially is taken with interviewing them so as not to prejudice evidence.

Interviews may be videotaped, props such as puppets used and leading questions

scrupulously avoided. Medical treatment and counselling is given immediately

after sexual assaults are reported. In this case, these legal and medical

procedures were not followed. A medical examination which would have needed

to be carried out with as little delay as possible for legal reasons,

as well as humanitarian ones, was delayed for several days. The victim

did not receive the same level of support from child protection authorities

after the incident was reported. It would appear that in this case the

Australian government and various other bodies such as ACM, the Derby

police and the doctor in question were perhaps suffering from a conflict

of interest. The Derby police's claim that a five year old boy could instigate

a sexual act with three adult men beggars belief. But even if the police

sincerely believed this to be the case then they must believe that the

young boys were living in an environment that has caused them to act out

grossly inappropriate sexual behaviours. Outside an IDC, in the wider

Australian community such concerns would see young boys removed by DOCs

for their own safety. The absence of any child protection measures inside

IDCs discriminates against asylum seeking children. It would seem that

children (and adults) within IDCs can be punished under Australian laws

but not protected by them.[7]

Health Care issues

I have received complaints from asylum seekers that there

is an inordinate wait for proper medical examination, that people may

have to wait for weeks or months before being seen by a doctor. They are

usually seen by a nurse and have to wait until a doctor is available.

In one instance, it was reported that a child had developed a fever because

of inadequate medical attention. I sent a letter to the IDC management

and a copy to Minister Ruddock and another to the shadow minister for

immigration. Senator Kay Patterson replied to my letter four weeks later

and stated that the child was referred to a hospital on the same day that

my letter was faxed to the IDC at Curtin. [8]

Please refer to Appendix 4

Reunion of children with parents

This issue is particularly important on a number of counts,

firstly, asylum seekers who are found to be genuine refugees are now only

granted a temporary protection visa (TPV). TPVs carry less privileges than

Permanent Protection Visas (PPV). Amongst the most important differences

are that TPV holders are not entitled to free English classes, they are

not permitted to return to Australia if they travel from Australia for any

reason and they have no entitlement to sponsor family members under the

family reunion provisions. Many TPV holders have travelled without their

wife and children in the hope that when they are granted asylum, their families

can join them. The restrictions pertaining to this type of visa does not

permit family reunion. Many of the survivors from a boating tragedy where

over 350 asylum seekers drowned off the coast of Indonesia on 20 October

2001 state that they risked the arduous journey and resorted to a people

smuggler so that they can be reunited with their families. More than 100

children died on that boat, many of these had fathers in Australia, some

had siblings in Australia. Further, one of the survivors who remains in

Indonesia despite being identified as a genuine refugee by the United Nations

High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) and having been allocated to Australia

has two daughters under the age of ten in Australia. I personally spoke

to the two daughters of this lady, who had also lost a son, a brother and

a sister in the drowning. The young girls are traumatised and very depressed

over the fact that DIMIA procrastination is keeping their mother away from

them. The plight of this particular family was reported by the Sydney Morning

Herald AM edition on April 18, 2002, see:
http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2002/04/17/1019020662372.html

and by The Age on April 20, 2002, see:
http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2002/04/19/1019020706649.html

Today, more than six months after the tragedy, DIMIA is still procrastinating

over the allocation of visas to its Australia's share of the survivors,

Australia was allocated eight out of the forty four survivors, to date,

only two have been granted visas and have arrived in Australia.

TPVs also create a second-class culture, with children and adults knowing

that their visa will expire in three years and that they have to apply

again, children whose applications for visa renewal are not accepted will

have to be unsettled and deported to another country.

There are also asylum seekers who had been in detention for up to four

years and they have not seen their children nor have they seen by their

children and have not received information about their children for the

duration of this period. [9]

CONCLUDING RECOMMENDATIONS

I appreciate that Australia has an obligation to protect

its boarders and to require asylum seekers entering Australia to identify

themselves and show prima facie case as to why they should be extended

protection. However I cannot see how the sovereignty or protection of

our boarders is advanced by incarcerating children and adults indefinitely.

I strongly advocate that all people seeking asylum, but especially children

be placed in the community. Children should be immediately released with

their parents after their application for protection has been quickly

assessed.

Incidents such as the one at Port Headland on the 31st

of May 2001 need to be independently investigated. An independent investigation

is necessitated by the lack of transparency in the management of IDCs

in Australia. This is in contravention of Article 3(3) of the Convention

of the Rights of the Child which states that: "Parties shall ensure that

the institutions, services and facilities responsible for the care or

protection of children shall conform with the standards established by

competent authorities, particularly in the areas of safety, health, in

the number and suitability of their staff, as well as competent supervision".

This article requires Australia to set standards and to ensure these standards

are met in all institutions, services and facilities through appropriate

monitoring. At present there is no independent body in Australia charged

with monitoring IDCs with the power to compel changes to detention practices

where they are warranted. The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission,

the Commonwealth Ombudsman as well as Parliamentary committees and Ministerial

advisory groups can inspect detention facilities with prior Ministerial

approval, but cannot compel changes to detention practices. In the meantime

DIMIA cannot objectively assess its own performance or that of ACM. There

is no incentive for DIMIA to compel ACM to investigate or remedy gross

violations of human rights, such as those that I have just outlined.

With regard to the alleged assault at Curtain IDC, preventive

strategies should be taken in relation to child asylum seekers who may

face sexual violence or assault in IDCs. Women and Children should be

housed separately from unrelated adult men. Article 37(c) of the Convention

of the Rights of the Child states that detained, children should be "separated

from adults unless it is considered in the child's best interest not to

do so". If woman and children cannot be immediately released into the

community, the processing of women and children asylum seekers' applications

for refugee status should be expedited. If Australia is going to place

people in incarceration for long periods of time it needs to take seriously

the responsibilities that come with this policy.

Health care for detained asylum seekers should be investigated

and appropriate measures to be put in place to insure that detainees have

the same level of access to medical staff as the general community.

TPVs must be granted travel privileges and rights to

family reunion. The system of TPVs must be scrapped and people who are

found to be genuine asylum seekers must be granted full rights of permanent

protection.

Nobody should be placed in detention indefinitely, their

should be free access to legal aid, every effort should be made to re-establish

contact between children of asylum seekers and their parents inside the

detention centres. No person should remain in detention for over a year,

the provision under natural justice that entitle undetermined detained

asylum seekers to a bridging visa should be invoked automatically if no

decision is made in their case.


END NOTES

  1. Article 2, UN Convention of the Rights of the Child. Article 30 of the

    Convention. Article 30 effectively replicates article 27 of the International

    Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which in turn emphasises

    the right of persons belonging to "ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities"

    to the enjoyment of their own distinctive culture. Article 27 ICCPR

    provides: "In those States in which ethnic, religious or linguistic

    minorities exist, persons belonging to such minorities shall not be

    denied the right, in community with the other members of their group,

    to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practise their own religion,

    or to use their own language."

  2. Articles 5, and 18, UN Convention of the Rights of the Child. This right

    persists unless there is clear evidence of abuse or neglect, in which

    case the State is expected to intervene to protect the child; see articles

    19, 34 and 39, Convention of the Rights of the Child. Under article

    3, Australia is obliged to promote the best interests of the child.

  3. "Iranian

    Refugee Finds Christ in Detention", Southern Cross Magazine, April,

    2002, front page.

  4. ABC Radio National, 'The Religion Report',. 8.30 pm, Wednesday the 20th

    of February, 2002. http://www.abc.net.au/rn/talks/8.30/relrpt/stories/s485645.htm

  5. This

    was not the first time steel batons had been used they said. They had

    managed to confiscate one baton on an earlier occasion and they hid

    this. They said that they would be willing to hand this steel baton

    to independent investigators.

  6. Article

    34 provides: "States Parties undertake to protect the child from all

    forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse. For these purposes, States

    Parties shall in particular take all appropriate national, bilateral

    and multilateral measures to prevent:

    1. The inducement

      or coercion of a child to engage in any unlawful sexual activity;

    2. The exploitative

      use of children in prostitution or other unlawful sexual practices;

    3. The exploitative

      use of children in pornographic performances and materials."

  7. At

    the time of the assault this family had been in detention in Australia

    for 11 months. Under immigration law, if their case was not determined

    within six months, they are entitled to be given a bridging visa until

    their case is determined. When their lawyer invoked this provision of

    the legislation, DIMIA rushed through a decision to reject their application

    for asylum. The appeal against this decision was heard on Monday the

    18th of February and Tuesday the 19th of Feb. The appeal was successful

    and the decision was handed on 20 Feb. I wrote a letter to the minister

    requesting the urgent release of the family on the ground that they

    were found to be genuine asylum seekers. Appendix 3 contains my letter

    to the Minister re. this. We are now in May, more than two months after

    the decision of the appeal was handed down and this family is still

    in Curtin IDC.

  8. I have recieved many complaints about the inadequate level of health

    care available in IDCs. Of particular concern is the fact that a nurse

    is the first health practitioner which detainees can see. They sometimes

    have to wait for months to see a qualified doctor. A woman with kidney

    problems for example had to wait ten days to see a doctor. There are

    many conditions which nurses fail to diagnose or are unable to treat.

    Medicines which are only available on a doctor's prescription can obviously

    not be obtained from a nurse. This may explain the high level of Panadol

    administered in IDCs and the advice to "drink water" as a cure-all.

    One detainee reported that she was told that she would have to pay for

    the flying doctor service if she wanted to get her child who had pneumonia

    to be seen by a specialist at a hospital. The Parliamentary Secretary

    to minister Ruddock, Senator Kay Paterson denied that the detainee had

    been told she must pay for the service. Senator Paterson's letter is

    available upon request. The detainee asserts that she was told this

    by IDC staff. Her statement is given weight by the shared aim of both

    the IDC management and the Australian government of minimizing expenditure

    on detainees, including expenditure on their health. It may have been

    that staff told the sick boy's mother that she would have to pay because

    they believed this to be the case, or because they wanted to dissuade

    her if they believed ACM would have to foot the bill. In any case the

    current poor levels of health care in Australian IDCs contravene Article

    24 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child which states that: "States

    Parties recognize the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest

    attainable standard of health and to facilities for the treatment of

    illness and rehabilitation of health. States Parties shall strive to

    ensure that no child is deprived of his or her right of access to such

    health care services." Furthermore, the World Health Organisation's

    definition of "health" in the Preamble to the Constitution of the World

    Health Organisation states that: "The States Parties to the present

    Covenant recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest

    attainable standard of physical and mental health." Article 12 of the

    International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights states

    that "Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being

    and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity".

  9. I was advised by an asylum seeker at Curtin, [name removed] that he

    had not seen his family nor does he know their whereabouts, he has only

    received news from three of his children who were granted asylum in

    London. [Name removed] is another Curtin Detainee who does not know

    anything about his four children, he has been in detention for three

    years, with no idea of when or if he will be released, deported or given

    a visa.


Appendix 1

The Hon. Philip Ruddock

MP

Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs

Suite MF 40 Parliament House

Canberra ACT 2600

14 April 2000

Dear Mr. Ruddock

Request for appropriate prayer

space, Stage 1, Villawood IDC

A request has been

submitted to our association seeking a letter of support regarding prayer

space in stage 1 of Villawood IDC. In view of the large number of Muslim

detainees in stage 1, the present facilities at Villawood are inadequate

for the purpose.

As you may be aware,

religious observances play an important part in the life of a Muslim.

In detention, religious observance becomes crucial in that it allows the

detainee to fill his time in a peaceful wholesome manner. The availability

of adequate prayer specific facilities ensures that the detainee will

devote more of his time to religious devotion rather than feel agitated

over the length and uncertainty of the stay. Such facilities are not only

important for the formal obligatory congregational prayers, they are also

important for other acts of worship, such as Qur`an recitation and religious

talks and advice. We would be pleased to provide copies of the Qur`an

for the use of the detainees in such a facility free of charge. We seek

your assistance in setting aside a prayer room of adequate size to accommodate

all the Muslim detainees in stage 1 of Villawood IDC.

Thank you for your

consideration, I can be contacted on 0410 42 43 46 for any further information.

Yours faithfully

Keysar Trad

Welfare, religion and public relations executive

cc Manager ACM, Villawood IDC


Appendix 2

13 July 2000

Dear [Villawood ACM

Manager]

I recently sat with

Mr. Philip Ruddock, the Minister for Immigration. We discussed a number

of refugee issues that pertain to all the detention centres in Australia.

Mr. Ruddock explained his viewpoint well and we agreed that there is a

necessity for cooperation between the ethnic communities and DIMA in order

to resolve this situation within the requirements of the Australian immigration

laws. In this spirit of cooperation, I request your assistance to visit

all the Muslim detainees in both Stages 1 and 2 to spend a short time

with them for spiritual and ethical guidance. I would also like to hand

to yourself a letter with respect to one of the detainees. Your urgent

reply and assistance in booking a visit for myself and my assistant would

help in establishing this process of cooperation and understanding.

Yours faithfully

[Name removed]

Mufty of Australia


Appendix 3

The Letter to the

Minister

The Honourable Philip

Ruddock

Minister for Immigration

Parliament House

Canberra ACT 2600

25 February 2002

Dear Mr. Ruddock

Urgent - Re. [Name removed]

Family - Curtin IRPC

Files in your office

would indicate that the original decision in the above matter was set

aside by the RRT on 20 February 2002.

This family has been

in detention for almost one full year. In detention, members of the family

suffered illness, I wrote to your office about this last year. They have

also been subjected to sexual harassment and most recently, a [young child]

of the family alleged that he had been raped both orally and anally by

several Sri Lankan detainees. The child described his ordeal in graphic

detail he experienced anal bleeding for several days after the alleged

incident and continues to experience nightmares as a result of the alleged

sexual assault.

The family has endured

much hardship, the children have been from one refugee camp to another

for several years now with their detention culminating in Curtin for most

of 2001 and part of 2002. In view of the favourable decision by the RRT

and in the interest of the children and the safety and well being of the

family, we request that the family's release is not delayed any further

and that as a gesture of goodwill from the department, that the [name

deleted] family be given a visa and released this week so that they can

be reunited with their other family members in Sydney.

Yours sincerely

Keysar Trad

Acting President


Appendix 5

Manager Dima

Curtin Detention Centre

Derby

Dear Sir

Re. [name removed] son of

[name removed]

[Name removed] is

[age removed], he is an asylum seeker presently detained at the Curtin

Detention Centre. Whilst in Detention, [he] contracted a lung infection,

his uncle attended my office with the following information:

[The child] has suffered

a lung infection.

DIMA medical staff

at the centre have administered Panadol to [the child].

DIMA medical staff

advised [the child's] mother that if she wanted proper medical treatment

for [the child], she would have to pay for the Royal Flying Doctor Service

to take him to hospital.

[The child's] mother

called her family in Sydney (all Australian citizens) seeking help.

I previously wrote

to your office with respect to [this child] and his family.

To allow [his] medical

condition to deteriorate to this stage is totally unacceptable. Urgent

proper medical treatment must be administered to [the child] immediately.

We demand that DIMA take [the child] to a hospital where he can receive

this treatment as a matter of urgency.

Yours faithfully

Keysar Trad

Vice President

Cc - Office of the

Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs

Office of the Shadow Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs

Office of the Hon. Laurie Ferguson, Federal member for Reid

(faxed on 30 July

2001)

Last

Updated 14 July 2003.