‘We have all been horrified by nations that run concentration camps and gulags. Now we are running a special gulag for children and their families.’ said Rev’d Dr Lucy Morris, Chief Executive Officer of Baptistcare in Western Australia.
Newborn babies and their families were moved in the dead of night to Christmas Island detention centre, without warning.
Denying culpability and putting security as a higher priority won’t rescue this government or the opposition from their combined appalling record of holding children in indefinite detention for no crime at all.
This behaviour from our leaders is devastating,’ said Rev’d Dr Morris, ‘Report after report has identified Christmas Island as desperately unsuitable for children. However, our government sees fit to engage in what can only be described as storm trooper tactics on vulnerable people in the middle of the night, forcibly relocating them to a place where there is no access to appropriate health care, community and education.
We need to remember these people are not criminals, they are not illegals; they are asylum seekers with their children. Let us also remember the children have been brought here by their parents, or born here. They have not asked to come, they are innocents.
Australia has obligations under international human rights law to detain children only as a measure of last resort and to ensure children are protected from harm.
‘This is not the last resort. It is nothing like the last resort. There are groups within the caring Australian community who are putting up their hands to help Asylum seeker families and children, but the Federal Government is ignoring this.’
In March this year, the Australian Human Rights Commission visited Christmas Island and reported that most of the children were visibly distressed. They told the team “this place is hell”, “help me get out of here” and “there’s no school, nowhere to play and nothing to do.” The children also spoke about their distress at living in a closed environment with adults who were sad, angry and self-harming.
‘Contracting the Catholic Education Commission to provide schooling on Christmas Island is simply a stop gap. These children do not belong there, they belong in our community, in our schools, playing, learning and being kids in a normal environment. No one doubts the capacity of the Catholic Education system to provide an excellent education but contracting out government tasks in this way does not absolve the government from responsibly meeting our humanitarian obligations.’
‘We ask for one simple act. Release all children from mandatory detention, with their parents, and let them participate in community life, including education, sport, and play. It is simple, release the children.’