Detention report highlights children arriving on their own

A report due out soon on Australia’s asylum seekers will offer the first details of how children who came alone from war-torn countries were treated after arrival.

The report, due for release next month, is the result of research by Dr Mary Crock, a senior lecturer in law at Sydney University.

She is the first to look at the issue of about 290 children under age 17 who sought asylum without their families between 1999 and 2003.

Dr Crock says all of them were put in detention as part of the Howard Government’s solution to stopping the flow of refugees to Australia and some are still not free.

“I understand that there is one unaccompanied minor, unaccompanied child, in detention on Nauru at the moment and there are children in detention in Australia who are what I would call “major-minors”. In other words, they came here as unaccompanied minors, and they’re now over the age of 18. I believe there’s one in Baxter at the moment.”

Dr Crock says many of the children arrived by boat and all travelled alone from the war-torn regions of Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan and Sri Lanka.

The research is a case study of 14 of those children, all of whom arrived by boat.

Dr Crock says her findings add a new dimension to the report earlier this year by the Human Rights Commission on the plight of children in Australia’s detention centres.

“While you can’t take the accounts that we have recorded as proof, if you like, that that’s what it was like for everybody, if you put together the accounts that we got from the young people interviewed with what HREOC has recorded quite scrupulously with their report, I think the picture is not a very attractive one when it comes to Australia.”

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