Yesterday the Australian Human Rights Commission has announced the second inquiry into the human rights of children in immigration detention. See: www.humanrights.gov.au/national-inquiry-children-immigration-detention-2014
Between 2002 and 2004 I as the Australian Human Rights Commissioner have conducted the first inquiry that resulted in a report ‘A Last Resort? National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention’ tabled in Parliament on the Budget day 2004. This report found that the mandatory immigration detention of children was fundamentally inconsistent with Australia’s international human rights obligations and that detention for long periods created a high risk of serious mental harm. In response the Howard Government released all children and their families from immigration detention few months later.
Certainly the repetition of my inquiry is the highest form of flattery but timing is very odd. When the boats were arriving in large numbers and Labor was at its peak of cruelty towards the boat arrivals AHRC almost did not see the problem and the newly appointed Children Rights Commissioner was proclaiming that her jurisdiction is limited to domestic matters.
It would be interesting to learn what AHRC jurisdiction is over Manus and Nauru. Also, how its findings will add to the 2004 report’s findings and recommendations. Let’s hope the inquiry is not only a political exercise in consciousness raising but that it will bring a permanent end to the long term immigration detention of children.
Dr Sev Ozdowski OAM Australian Human Rights Commissioner (2000-05)