Children in detention ‘extremely harmful’: Red Cross

AUSTRALIAN Red Cross, in welcoming the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Children in Detention report, says again that prolonged detention is extremely harmful, especially for children. Detention should only be used as a last resort, and then only for the shortest possible time.

Red Cross is neutral and impartial and has been consistently delivering this message to governments of all political persuasion over many years, and strongly advocating this view within the Australian community.

We welcome the Government’s recent action to release children from detention in Australia, and while we know the majority of children are now living in the community we remain concerned for those still held in facilities across the country.

‘The Australian Human Rights Commission report confirms what Red Cross knows first hand: prolonged detention has a significant harmful effect on children, but also on other groups held in immigration detention,’ Australian Red Cross’ CEO Robert Tickner says. ‘We welcome any change that sees children properly cared for in the community, rather than in detention facilities.’

Red Cross has been at the forefront of developing and implementing alternatives to held detention – for children, families and other vulnerable groups. We have worked with this government and successive governments on these alternatives. Between 2010 and 2014 we, and our partner agencies, cared for many of the more than 25,000 asylum seekers who were placed in the community while they awaited a decision on their refugee application.

‘We know from experience there are alternatives to prolonged detention that are more humane, respecting the dignity and well-being of people seeking protection, and are more cost effective and sustainable.

‘Detention should only ever be used as a last resort and only for the shortest practicable time,’ Mr Tickner says.

‘While we obviously have concerns about children being detained we are also concerned about the prolonged detention of other people with particular vulnerabilities – torture and trauma survivors, elderly people, people with health issues, and young men, in particular.’

For more than 20 years Red Cross has been visiting people in immigration detention facilities and supporting asylum seekers living in the community while waiting for a decision on their refugee application. ‘We’ve voiced concerns about children in detention, both publicly and directly with authorities and consecutive governments since first visiting immigration detention facilities 20 years ago.’

Red Cross made a confidential submission to this inquiry, as it has done to other inquiries.

Our discussions with successive governments and the Department of Immigration are directed at those who have the power to make change – and are always confidential, consistent with the approach used by Red Cross internationally. At the same time, we welcome that other organisations, like the Australian Human Rights Commission, speak publicly on their own findings.

‘Our teams make regular independent humanitarian monitoring visits to every Australian immigration detention facility every quarter,’ Mr Tickner says.

‘We raise and discuss humanitarian concerns that arise with authorities at those detention facilities and in Canberra. People in detention trust Red Cross and give us confidential information knowing we will protect it and work with them to alert the relevant authorities about improvements that should be made.’

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Ryan Fritz

Ryan Fritz started The Advocate in 2014 to provide not-for-profits and charities with another media platform to tell their worthwhile hard news stories and opinion pieces effortlessly. In 2020, Ryan formed a team of volunteer journalists to help spread even more high-quality stories from the third sector. He also has over 10 years of experience as a media and communications professional for not-for-profits and charities.

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