19 August, 2014 - Release of children in detention ‘a good first step’: Plan

Plan International Australia, the child rights organisation and international NGO, today welcomes a decision by the Federal Government to release around 1,500 children in immigration detention in Australia. The government said it will provide bridging visa arrangements to allow 1,547 children under 10 years now held in community or residential detention in Australia to be released into the community. However, the decision does not extend to the children held in Christmas Island and Nauru.

“This is a good first step and the government is to be congratulated on making it. However, it is only a first step and it does not yet go nearly far enough in addressing the grim reality so many children held in detention now face,” says Ian Wishart, CEO of Plan International Australia.

“There are still children being held in Christmas Island and Nauru in conditions that threaten their welfare, their health and their mental wellbeing,” Wishart says.

“Just holding children in detention anywhere, be that on the mainland or offshore, is a violation of their human rights and simply should not be happening. We have called on the government to release these children from detention and instead care for them in the community, and that’s a call we are renewing today,” he says.

“We are also renewing our call for an independent body to monitor and report on the treatment of children held in immigration detention. Last week’s reports of a systematic violation of the rights of children held in Nauru lays bare the need for independent monitoring of the conditions in which children are held.”

Wishart notes that the visa arrangements announced today will see around 150 children released from detention in the mainland – the rest of the children are held in community detention – while as many as 300 children remain in detention in Nauru and Christmas Island.

The policy does not apply to children transferred to Australia from offshore detention for medical reasons, nor are children who arrived in Australia after July 19 last year eligible.

“There are many ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ about today’s announcements, but there can be no ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ about the welfare of children. Children should not be held in detention – it’s as simple and as stark as that,” Wishart says.

“We have long been concerned about the welfare of children in offshore detention. In Nauru, there appears to be no real child protection framework and that puts children there at the risk of abuse and permanent harm,” he says.

“These children are innocents. These children are in our care. These children are looking to Australia and Australians for the same basic rights we would expect and demand for our own children. There can be no excuse for not ensuring those rights.”

Editors’ notes:
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, political or governmental affiliations.

Media contact: Adam Cathro, Plan International Australia, Media Relations Manager, 0488 202 945