As the world celebrates the 25th Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child – the most ratified international treaty in history – Plan International Australia is calling on the Australian government to take seriously its obligations to the children it continues to hold in indefinite offshore detention.
“Today marks 25 years since the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Anniversaries like this remind us that the rights we are asking the government to uphold are rights that they themselves have agreed to protect,’ says Ian Wishart, CEO of the international child rights organisation Plan International Australia.
“International Human Rights Conventions are important because they give us a way to hold our governments to account – so it is important to mark this significant day by repeating our call to the government to honour the obligations it signed up to a quarter of a century ago,” Wishart says.
Established in 1989,the Convention has 194 signatories. States that sign the Convention are obliged to protect the rights contained in it. This includes obligations to provide protective measures for asylum seeker children. It requires that children’s best interests be a primary consideration in all decisions that impact on them, recognising their particular vulnerability.
The Committee on the Rights of the Child is the group of independent international experts which monitors the performance of signatories to the Convention. The Committee has expressed its concern at the Australian government’s handling of asylum seeker children, urging the government to move away from offshore processing policies and to reconsider the immigration detention of children.
“And yet the government shunts them into detention in places like Nauru, where there is little in the way of protection and support provided for these innocent children, and no way of ensuring that their best interests can be ensured.”
“Earlier this year, Plan called for an independent monitor for offshore detention. We have seen again in the past few weeks how urgently this is needed. The reports coming from detainees on Nauru of abuse that is not investigated are a shocking indictment of the government and of this policy, which is often defended as necessary to save children from drowning,” Wishart says.
“Such professed concern for the welfare of children rings hollow when we see the repeated harmful treatment that the government continues to inadequately address, let alone acknowledge responsibility for,” he adds.
The proper protection of asylum seeker children is not the only issue on which Australia is falling short under the convention. The Committee has also urged better protection of children, particularly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in out-of-home care, improved mental health services to address the high rates of suicide among young Australians and the prohibition of corporal punishment, something that Australian law still permits.
“Australia is a proud signatory to the Convention of the Rights of the Child and, make no mistake, has made enormous strides in the past quarter of a century when it comes to guaranteeing the rights of children,” Wishart says.
“But right now, Australia is putting its reputation as a nation that respects and cares for children at risk by casually disregarding their rights. Locking up the children in offshore detention centres is quite simply a violation of our obligations and it must stop now,” he says.
Plan is one of the oldest and largest children's development organisations in the world, founded 75 years ago, working in 50 developing countries across Africa, Asia and the Americas and supported by 21 donor countries. Plan is independent, with no religious or political affiliations.
Media contact: Adam Cathro, Plan International Australia, Media Relations Manager, 0488 202 945