The Guardian August 13, 2003


Children remain in hell hole

While the detention of any refugee in a camp behind razor-wire is 
abhorrent and inhumane, the detention of children in those camps has now 
finally been declared illegal. So, why are they still there?

The five children of the Bakhtiyari family have now spent two years and 
seven months in prison  two of those years in the Woomera hell-hole.

Freedom seemed assured on July 28 when Justice Strickland of the Family 
Court declared their detention "unlawful".

Now, almost inexplicably, Justice Strickland has denied an interim 
application to have them released.

This shock decision is the second made by the Court regarding the children 
 when first presented in July 2002 Justice Dawe ruled that the case was 
not "urgent", effectively sentencing the children to another 12 months of 
"unlawful" detention.

Currently two of the children are being held at Baxter with their father, 
and three are being held alone at Woomera.

This court case, and many others being fought by refugees, have been met 
with an unprecedented level of political pressure and interference by the 
Federal Government.

Strong and expert evidence was put before the Family Court damning to the 
practice of detention of children clearly outlining the critical need for 
their urgent release.

Yet the Government has won the day with a case based purely on hearsay 
evidence given by Australian Correctional Management, the transnational 
corporation that once ran the centres and profited from the children's 
incarceration.

Included in the Federal Government's argument was the blatantly false and 
penny-pinching assertion that it would cost the Government three times as 
much to release the children into the community than it would be to keep 
them in detention

The South Australian State Government and the Catholic family services 
organisation Centacare have already promised to cover all costs for keeping 
the children.

Pressure must continue to be applied on the Federal Government to repeal 
its criminal refugee detention laws, and in particular for Minister Ruddock 
to accede to the release of the five Bakhtiyari children.

Letters of protest can be sent to

Philip Ruddock MP
Suite MF 40
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

or email:
philip.ruddock.mp@aph.gov.au

(Emails must include postal address for reply.)

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