Orphan must be taken from Christmas Island to his family - ALA

10th May 2013

The Australian Lawyers Alliance today called on the federal government to remove a nine-year-old Sri Lankan boy, recently orphaned, from Christmas Island, to save him from exacerbated psychological trauma.

“This little boy, who has braved persecution and an horrific sea journey to make it to Australia only to have his father die of a suspected heart attack, must be suffering incredible shock and to continue to lock him up in detention is inhumane, mental torture,” Australian Lawyers Alliance National President, Anthony Kerin said.

“What sort of government treats the world’s destitute in such a way, let alone an innocent child. This is child abuse,” Mr Kerin said.

“And what sort of message do we wish to continue to send out in this country to our Asian-Pacific neighbours? How would Australia have the world view us and how do we expect our own expatriates to be treated when caught up in trouble overseas, if we give such disregard to the young and vulnerable?

"It is bad enough that we have adults behind bars that shouldn’t be there, but there is a very grave danger of inflicting even greater harms on such immensely traumatised children,” Mr Kerin said.

Mr Kerin said child neurologists over the world agreed that the psychological harm done to children’s fragile brains by placing them in unnecessary detention was monumental and likely to cause permanent psychological problems.

“This little boy has the added trauma of being caged in a foreign land, has lost his father and has two uncles living in Australia who could provide him with comfort and support. What sort of outcome can we expect for such a child kept locked up in this situation? And if something is not done quickly his mental health is likely to become an increased burden for Australia in future as treatment becomes more difficult and costly – not to mention the potential compensation that he should be entitled to as a result of treatment by his legal guardian Immigration Minister, Brendan O’Connor,” he said.

Under the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child it states: ‘The child shall enjoy special protection, and shall be given opportunities and facilities, by law and by other means, to enable him to develop physically, mentally, morally, spiritually and socially in a healthy and normal manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity. In the enactment of laws for this purpose, the best interests of the child shall be the paramount consideration.’

“Immediate action must be taken to properly care for this little boy outside a detention facility,” Mr Kerin said.

Tags: Human rights Compensation Asylum seekers and refugees