Children in Australia’s detention centres are exposed to danger. A new report by the Australian Human Rights Commission has found that children in immigration detention committed self-harm, reported sexual assaults and went on hunger strikes.
The commission’s The Forgotten report said the children in such facilities reported committing self-harm, sexual assault and incidents of hunger strike. After its inquiry into the welfare of children, the Human Rights Commission has found that “prolonged detention” has negative and long-last effects on their emotional and mental health.
The Human Rights Commission said that during the time the report was written, the children and adults have been staying for over a year in detention centres. The Guardian reports that there are 257 children detained in Australian immigration detention including 119 more in Nauru, Papua New Guinea. More than a hundred children have been released into the community on PNG’s mainland the past two weeks after they were previously held in on Christmas Island.
The report suggested that despite the best efforts of Australia’s immigration department and contractors to provide proper care to the children, their detention was damaging their mental health. This also resulted in making them “physically sick.”
“Children are exposed to danger by their close confinement with adults who suffer high levels of mental illness,” said the commission’s report. Previous reports have indicated that under Australian and international law, children will only be placed in detention as a “last resort.”
Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has slammed the Human Rights Commission report for its allegations of child abuse within detention centres. Mr Abbott said in an interview with Neil Mitchell in Canberra that he rejected the calls of forming a Royal Commission to investigate the treatment of children on Christmas Island and Nauru. The prime minister remarked that he felt no guilt over how the issue was handled. He accused the commission of engaging in a partisan politicised exercise, reports Fairfax Media.
Professor Gillian Triggs, president of the Australian Human Rights Commission, had condemned the Labour and Coalition governments for ignoring their commitment to protect the children under their care. UNICEF Australia said the indefinite detention of children increase their chances of being exposed to sexual violence and abuse aside from physical and mental illness.
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