Larger / SmallerNight Mode Confused, stressed, alone: asylum seekers

 THEY are bored, they can't sleep and they don't understand what they are in detention for. Children's Commissioner Aileen Ashford met  29 of the 137 unaccompanied minors living at Pontville last week.And while what the unaccompanied teenage  asylum seekers of Pontville really want is to be told they can stay permanently in Australia, they would be happy in the mean time to be able to attend school and play soccer and cricket.

In a one-hour meeting, with the help of three interpreters, the boys aged 13 to 17 from Kuwait, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and Iraq told Ms Ashford that they were worried they would go ``mental'' with the stress and worry of being in detention.
Ms Ashford said they told her that no one had explained to them why they were being transferred to Pontville, and they had not been provided with written information in their own languages to explain the process.
``They all said that they wanted to be in the community and they want to go to school,'' she said.
``When I raised the issue about why we can't have these young people in schools . . . the question posed was the practicalities of transporting 137 young people to school and back to detention again.''
Ms Ashford said the boys were currently getting English lessons, but no other formal schooling. 
She is the first of Australia's Children's Commissioners to visit youths in an immigration detention centre and was the first non-paid visitor the boys had seen since they  first arrived in Tasmania on January 22.
Tasmanian Asylum Seeker Support Group founder Emily Conolan said they were holding an information session at the centre this week, and hoped to start visiting the young men in the next couple of weeks.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Immigration and Citizenship said the department was in discussions with the state government to allow the unaccompanied minors to undertake schooling in the local community.
Education Minister Nick McKim said  that the federal government had approached the Polytechnic to provide age-appropriate programs for these and any future unaccompanied minors at Pontville.
Ms Ashford said the boys wanted to be able to play cricket and soccer but did not have cricket gear, had injured themselves by playing soccer in thongs, and had an oval that was ``just rubble.''
She said she was told that there was no oval because the funding had run out.
However the department spokeswoman said there were sporting grounds at Pontville.

The department spokeswoman said unaccompanied minors would be moved into community-based detention as soon as possible, but that would not be in Tasmania.Pontville was re-classified last year to a place of alternative detention to allow it to house unaccompanied minors.
Ms Ashford said she had requested a return trip to the centre at some point to see if native language written information had been provided and if the oval issue had been resolved.

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