|Refugee groups join Greens in push for free-kids law|
|Tom Cowie writes on Crikey:|
|Refugee groups are urging the government to go further with its decision to allow children of asylum seekers to be released from detention, with the Greens pushing for the policy to be enshrined in law.
Under the plan, announced by Immigration Minister Chris Bowen yesterday, several hundred children and their families will be released from detention by next June, with charities and church groups expected to provide care and accommodation with the help of government funding. According to Immigration Department figures, there are currently 738 children in detention.
Bowen says the policy will be implemented using existing powers under the Migration Act to make “residence determinations”, which allows the minister to place conditions — such as curfews, requirements to live at a certain address and obligations to check in regularly with authorities — on those allowed to live in the community while they await the outcome of applications for asylum. According to the government, no legislation will be introduced or amended under the plan.
But while Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young has supported the governments move as a “welcome first step”, she also says the policy should be legislated: “This requires putting in place legal safeguards to protect children and young people. We can’t simply rely on the goodwill of a compassionate federal minister.”
Pamela Curr, campaign co-ordinator at the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, agrees, telling Crikey more needs to be done to ensure children are never put back into detention.
Curr also points to legislation she says clearly states that children should not be placed in detention. According to section four of the Migration Act, amended by the Howard government in 2005, “a minor shall only be detained as a measure of last resort”.
David Manne, executive director at the Refugee and Immigration Legal Centre, says while the announcement is an important step it’s still necessary to lock any reform into law.
Hanson-Young has made it clear the Greens will be moving in the Senate to amend the Migration Act, which will see children and unaccompanied minors exempt from the Acts mandatory detention clause. In a statement yesterday, she also said that mandatory detention for adult asylum seekers needed to be addressed as well.
Curr agrees: Until mandatory detention legislation is repealed our fight for the human rights of all asylum seekers is not over.
|Labors new direction on asylum seekers|