I have received a message that Chilout is reprising its campaign to get and keep children out of immigration detention. Following is part of the message:
ChilOut was a volunteer group campaigning from 2001 to 2006 on behalf of children in immigration detention. They wound down their campaign after the amendment was written into the Migration Act that "Children should be detained as a measure of last resort." At the same time, children were removed from the main immigration detention centres (IDCs) and put out into the community either on bridging visas or residence determinations. The only children held in any form of secure facility - residential housing - were those whose parents were a proven security or flight risk. This was not a radical left agenda. It was done by the Howard government.
The sad fact is that right now 618 children are being held in detention facilities - of the 628 in the immigration detention regime, only 10 are in the community under residence determinations. If you read the very small footnotes in the Immigration department detention statistics summary, you will see that this is the only form of detention where the person does not have to be accompanied at all times by a designated person i.e. under guard going to and from school....
Many children have not left their place of detention in months. While it was laudable that the ALP policy was to remove children from IDCs - the main detention centres - the result has been that kids are now held for long periods in places that do not have anything close to adequate facilities. At least the IDCs were purpose built to house people for long periods and have recreational and educational facilities. Places such as the Darwin Asti Motel are cramped, with only a cement carpark for children to play in. 150 afghan boys held in the Darwin Lodge have not been outside since April. Dr Louise Newman, an adviser to Government on immigration detention issues, has stated that in some cases, detention centres are actually better than the alternatives currently being used for children.
Sadly, ChilOut has had to resume our campaign in light of so many kids being held in immigration detention facilities in unacceptable conditions that are a breach of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. When we ended our first campaign, there was overwhelming support from the Australian community to ensure that children were not being detained. When we closed up shop, members of our group were drained - emotionally, physically and financially.
But there is no way we are going to stand by and watch this happen again. Not in our name, not in our country. No way. We will not allow our government to damage and traumatize another round of vulnerable children who fled to us with arms outstretched, seeking safety and protection.
The first time around we were just simple middle-class mums and dads who thought a couple of letters to the papers would solve the issue. After a 5 year hard-fought struggle we are seasoned campaigners, polished media performers and savvy political operatives. And we are mad as hell that we have to do this all over again.
For more information or to join the campaign, go to www.chilout.org