26 November, 2015 - Turnbull must back Senate bill and release detained kids by Christmas: Plan

Child rights organisation Plan International Australia is calling on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his government to pass legislation that will see children in detention in Australia freed before Christmas.

A bill to remove all children from onshore immigration detention centres was passed by the Senate this week, and will now be tabled in the House of Representatives. With a majority in the lower house, the fate of the bill is now in the hands of the Prime Minister and the government.

“There can be no greater Christmas present for the children held in detention centres in Australia than to be released into the community in Australia, where they can at last be free to be children instead of prisoners,” says Plan International Australia CEO Ian Wishart.

“In fact, there can be no greater Christmas present for all Australians than to see the blight of imprisoning vulnerable and innocent children finally abolished. This cruel and inhumane detention regime has been a stain on our collective consciences for far too long,” Wishart says.

“But the government must go further than just pass this bill – which applies to children in detention in Australia. Children imprisoned in detention centres outside Australia – in Nauru – should also be released immediately.”

“These children have done nothing wrong. They have become innocent victims and are paying the highest price imaginable for political gain. We have to consider the welfare of the children before the petty politics of immigration detention,” he adds.

Earlier this year, a Senate select committee report that found that our detention centre in Nauru is "not adequate, appropriate or safe for the asylum seekers detained there".

The report said that children are particularly vulnerable to harm, abuse and assault and recommended they be released from detention immediately.

“We have long said that detention centres are no place for a child. We are locking up children, some of whom are not even accompanied by their parents or families, and that’s something Australia ought to be ashamed of,” Wishart says.

He also renewed Plan International Australia’s call for an independent monitor for children in immigration detention.