ALA calls for immediate removal of boy in Tas detention centre

9th Jul 2013

The Australian Lawyers Alliance is calling for the immediate removal of an 11-year-old child from Pontville detention centre in Tasmania.

“This boy needs to be urgently removed before he is further psychologically harmed,” Australian Lawyers Alliance Director, Greg Barns, said.

“The Minister for Immigration has a duty-of-care to children in detention and detaining an 11-year-old, irrespective of the circumstances, is a breach of that duty,” Mr Barns said.

Mr Barns, who was also recently appointed to a Tasmanian government committee on reforming child protection laws, said to continue to keep the child, or any other child in detention not only endangered their well being, but was in breach to the International Convention on the Rights of the Child.

It is arguable that to detain a child as young as 11 years of age, particularly when the child has not been charged, let alone found guilty of any criminal offence, amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. This is prohibited under the Convention.

“It is great that the new Immigration Minister, Tony Burke, has just signed off of on the release of 18 young asylum seekers from Pontville, but what about the remaining 400 or so being held throughout Australia, 300 or so of whom are still in this state?” Mr Barns queried.

Mr Barns said recent crises of youth acting out in frustration at the Pontville centre would continue until all children were safely rehoused in the community.

The ALA called on Tasmanian Premier Lara Giddings to intervene personally to end the detention of vulnerable young people at Pontville.

“Ms Giddings should tell the Prime Minister Mr Rudd and Mr Burke that her Government will work the Commonwealth to immediately close this shameful ‘jail for kids’,” Mr Barns said.

“The Commonwealth has a duty-of-care when people arrive on our shores to protect their mental and physical well being. This is even more crucial when we are talking about impressionable youth,” he said.

“The government has already opened itself up to more than $25 million in compensation because of its treatment of asylum seekers.

"If we can’t find it in our collective heart, surely the government will feel it through pressure from the collective sting in taxpayers’ empting wallets as compensation payouts continue.

“The ALA would like to see all children urgently removed from detention and housed safely in the community,” Mr Barns said.

Tags: Compensation Tasmania Asylum seekers and refugees