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Reader comment on item: [Australia's] Crisis of illegal immigration

Submitted by Pumpkin pye (Australia), Feb 25, 2006 at 06:55

Children around the world suffer appalling abuses. Kids living on the streets are often tortured or killed by police. Children as young as seven are recruited or kidnapped to serve as soldiers in military forces. Sometimes, they're forced to work under extremely difficult conditions as labourers, or in forced prostitution. They are imprisoned, living in inhumane conditions, sometimes in cells with adults, and are not protected by assaults by other inmates, or are assaulted by guards. Refugee children are commonly separated from their families and are vulnerable to exploitation, sexual abuse and domestic violence.

Refugees are forced from their countries by civil conflict, war, human rights abusers or political strife. They're people that cross and international border to seek safety elsewhere, searching for better treatment and opportunity, risking their lives for the chance at a better one.

Refugees mostly have little or no idea of where they're headed. They're running away from their country, and not usually fleeing to a specific destination. Those seeking asylum in Australia usually have an extremely small understanding of our country and society, and cannot speak our language. They don't have time to mentally and physically prepare themselves for a new life, or imprisonment in a foreign country.

For some of the world's refugee population, it is either impractical or impossible to go to a nearby country to live there. This could be because their neighbouring countries have no part in the laws for refugee protection, or that is simply isn't safe. Instead, they choose to go directly to a foreign country, such as Australia, where they seek protection.

Without the appropriate documentation, refugees are placed in detention centres, bleak, barren prisons with barely maintained facilities, when they are already suffering serve trauma from life in their homelands. Some children are born inside these prisons, and know no other life. These people are so desperate to get out; they resort to self-harming protests and suicide attempts as a last plea for freedom. Inside detention centres, they are still being mentally and physically abused, and controlled by people with weapons, no different from the horrifying situations in their countries.

the detention environment is unsafe for children. Child detainees are not protected from violent situations such as fires, hunger strikes, riots and protests, self-harming and suicide attempts, causing severe trauma. They were often trapped during security lockdowns, used to contain volatile situations, which include the use of water cannons and tear gas .

There is an appalling level of disturbed mental health among children living in detention centres. Evidence from many health professionals revealed that child detainees suffer from clinical depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, separation anxiety and other anxiety disorders, and also exhibit symptoms of bed-wetting, sleeplessness and night terrors. This provides a first hand account of the anguish, demoralisation and desperation of the refugees caught up in Australia's mandatory detention policy.
Asylum-seekers can only be released from detention after their cases have been assessed and they have been found to be refugees, otherwise they remain in detention until they are deported, which could mean years of suffering.

Australia, unlike other developed nations, only grants protection refugees who meet the narrow definition of the 1951 Refugee Convention.

When boat arrivals in Australia reached its peak, the largest number to arrive in a single year was 4175 in years 1999-2000, a very small amount. Tiny immigration detention centres have long been established in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth while, in other cities, immigration detainees were usually held in prisons.

Countries already severly over-populated accept far more refugees than Australia, and detention is only used to establish identity and conduct background checks, and most detainees are released within a short amount of time. In Sweden, children are only detained for a maximum of six days.

Because of the foul treatment of refugees in this country, I am ashamed to call myself Australian. These people need help and safety. But our Government refuses to give it. Have we forgotten who we are and what we stand for?

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