Australian Govt failing to remove kids from immigration detention

The Australian Government is being accused of neglecting its promise to remove children from immigration detention as soon as possible.

Refugee advocates are using the case of a 7-year-old girl to make their point.

They say she is among a group of 27 unaccompanied children who have recently been transferred to their third detention centre in 9 months.

The Immigration Minister says he's doing his utmost to find community accommodation for the 500 children currently being kept in immigration detention.

Presenter: Simon Santow
Speaker: Sophie Peer, campaign director of ChilOut;

SIMON SANTOW: All Vietnamese - as old as 17 down to as young as seven - the group of 27 unaccompanied children landed at Christmas Island before being moved to Port Augusta in South Australia.

Now, according to refugee advocates, they've been moved again to a detention centre in Darwin.

Sophie Peer is the campaign director with the lobby group ChilOut.

SOPHIE PEER: So they've been shipped literally across the country and now back up to the north of the country. They should be in community detention. Nine months is ample time for the minister to find them placement in the community.

SIMON SANTOW: Do they have any adults with them that they know, any relatives?

SOPHIE PEER: Absolutely not. These children are alone. Some of them have siblings with them but those siblings are still under the age of 18. They may have cousins or friends with them - but the fact remains, all of these children are between seven years and 17 years of age.

The minister is supposed to be their guardian, supposed to be acting in their best interests and no matter what the situation we cannot fathom how it's in the best interests of a seven-year-old child to lock them up for nine months.

SIMON SANTOW: As far as the children's' welfare is concerned, would it have been better to have remained at Port Augusta?

SIMON SANTOW: The facility is around eight townhouses. It's far more set up for children. The bulk of the detainees there are children.

SIMON SANTOW: ChilOut says at an early age, the risk of damaging children by putting them in detention is large, but it's avoidable.

SOPHIE PEER: Children in detention centres - especially centres like Darwin, where these children are now being taken - self harm is rife, mental health issues are amongst the entire population. You've got majority of teenage boys who are depressed, who have nothing to do, who are not getting enough stimulation, education, recreation.

The system is broken. The situation is damaging for children and now you're putting seven-year-old children into that environment.

SIMON SANTOW: At the end of November, almost 4,500 people were officially in detention. Ten per cent of those were children.

The Immigration Minister Chris Bowen declined AM's invitation to be interviewed but a spokesman defended the Government's record.

He says it delivered last year on its commitment to get the majority of children out of detention and he wouldn't speak about this group of 27 unaccompanied children - citing privacy
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