Acts of suicide and self harm: children in immigration detention
ChilOut Press release
19 February 2013
Documents (attached) obtained by the Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network (DASSAN) reveal several appalling cases of self harm involving children, currently detained in Darwin Airport Lodge detention. ChilOut, a national advocacy group for children in immigration detention, calls on the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship to immediately release all children from Darwin, and all other immigration detention facilities.
The documents contain details of incidents that occurred during late 2010 to November 2011. Despite the time lapsed, it took the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) over nine months to release the documents and that was only after an application was lodged by DASSAN lawyers.
The incidents of self harm have involved children as young as 9 and 10, through to older teenagers.
ChilOut Spokesperson, Leila Druery said: “It’s important to recognise that these documents discuss cases from one detention centre over a short period. These cases aren’t isolated. More children are suffering the same psychological side effects as a result of detention in other facilities, we just don’t officially know the numbers.”
These cases illustrate systemic problems in a detention system where the Immigration Minister is the sole person who decides if his own department is acting in the best interests of the child. There is no enforceable independent oversight.
“That’s obviously a conflict of interest where governments become reluctant to release people from detention to avoid the media spotlight.”
“We’d like to see the issue of detaining children depoliticised, by giving an independent children’s commissioner an oversight and guardianship role. If this were to happen then perhaps we’d see decisions on the care of children made on the basis of need, not on how well it plays to the electorate,” said Ms Druery.
ChilOut is also concerned for the welfare of children currently detained offshore on Manus Island. Adults and children are suffering from sleep deprivation, inadequate facilities, or in the case of single men they have issues of overcrowding in tents. The high risk of malaria on the island as well as painful side effects from injections and other malaria treatments is a real concern. Children experience these hardships, but also witness self harm attempts by adults.
Ms Druery said: “These children are seeing things no child – or adult for that matter – should ever have to see. Children are extremely vulnerable and impressionable; our worst fear is that they’ll see acts of self harm and suicide attempts and think that’s an option for them. We know this worst fear is already being realised, in Darwin and other places.”
ChilOut calls for an independent and urgent review of all facilities to identify children at risk of harm and release those children into the community.
Contact: Leila Druery 0410 510 595