An Australian Human Rights Commission inquiry in to the health and wellbeing of children in immigration detention continued this week.
Secretary of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection Martin Bowles told the inquiry the number of children in detention has fallen from 1330 in July 2013 to 659 in July 2014. The inquiry heard evidence from Dr Peter Young that the immigration department requested the withdrawal of evidence of mental health concerns among young detainees. Immigration Minister Scott Morrison rejected this claim. The inquiry also heard evidence that the department chose ‘young looking’ detainees for offshore transfer, because of the enhanced deterrent effect on prospective arrivals.
One hundred and fifty-seven Tamil asylum seekers were moved from Curtin detention centre to Nauru. Mr Morrison returned from India after securing an agreement from officials to repatriate Indian nationals, and consider the claims of Sri Lankan nationals. Detainees rejected the offer to be assessed by Indian officials. Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young attempted to visit the detainees, but was denied access. Lawyers for the asylum seekers say they were not given adequate access to their clients before their transfer to Nauru. The relocation cuts short a High Court challenge to the processing of asylum seekers at sea.
Fifteen asylum seeker youths in community detention in Adelaide have fled fearing a return to custody. A Church-sponsored report called for the appointment of an independent guardian for children in detention. The position of immigration minister as guardian is untenable, the report argues, given he is ‘also tasked with being their judge and jailer’.