Fears raised for teen asylum seekers

THE Immigration Department has almost doubled the number of teenage asylum seekers detained in the West Australian desert town of Leonora recently and the local council is concerned they are not being sent to school.
Leonora Shire chief executive Jim Epis said yesterday he was unaware that the department had lifted the number of unaccompanied minors detained in Leonora from 90 to 160.

The department said there had been several transfers of groups of minors from Christmas Island since Christmas. The unaccompanied teenagers began arriving in November.
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Refugee groups, who descended on the mining town at the weekend in a protest, have also questioned the presence of such a large group of minors in the remote location.
Child counsellor Suzanne Jenkins from Fremantle's University of Notre Dame, who spoke to teenagers inside the Leonora detention centre at the weekend, said some had been in the detention system for more than two years.
The federal government pledged in 2010 to release children from immigration detention.
An immigration department spokeswoman said the teenagers - the only occupants of the detention centre - were just in ''transit'' and would be at Leonora ''for a matter of weeks'' while they were processed for community release.
But Mr Epis is concerned the department had told his council that, unlike last year, asylum seekers will not attend the local school in 2012, despite a previous expansion of classrooms to accommodate detainees.
He said a funding dispute between the state and federal government was to blame. ''It seems just a waste that this has been built and won't be used for the purpose it was built.''
A department spokeswoman confirmed the teenagers would not attend the local school, and would instead be taught English, cooking and life in Australia lessons inside the detention centre.
The spokeswoman said the Leonora school only catered for primary and junior high school students, so was inappropriate for 16 and 17-year-olds. ''It would be unnecessarily disruptive to the local community to move them into school and then out again a few weeks later,'' she said.
The department spokeswoman said of the Leonora detainees: ''Every one of them has been assessed for community detention but security and other risk factors have to be considered.''
Almost one in five asylum seekers in the detention network is a minor, with more children remaining in detention than are in community detention.
As of Friday, there were 489 minors in community detention and 588 in ''alternative'' detention centres such as Leonora.
■ A man in his 40s suffered a dislocated shoulder when he fell from a wall while trying to escape from the Maribyrnong Detention Centre yesterday.
An ambulance spokeswoman said the man fell from a 3½-metre-high perimeter fence shortly after 5.30am and was taken to St Vincent's Hospital.
A Department of Immigration spokesman said the detainee was expected to be returned to the centre from hospital last night.
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