On this night like any other night
Maybe raining maybe clear
In a world exploding is any heart open?
Can you hear us? Can you hear?
— from ‘Article 14’ by tony mockeridge.
Editor’s Note: Thanks to Tony Mockeridge and Robbie Stewart for this song that explains the background to the plight of this young child and that of many others — To listen to ‘Article 14’ click here
This time last week a terrible shipwreck was taking place in which 3 children lost their parents. One of these children, a boy about 8 years lost both parents and has no other family with him. We have grave concerns for the three children orphaned by this tragedy as they are held in separation detention, with other survivors, next to the Phosphate Camp across the road from the Construction Camp. We know that many of the people on the boat have relatives in Australia.
This boy may also have family in Australia – how will they find him when the department of immigration refuses to release his name or a photo. Already people in Australia are asking for this to happen and offers made to care for the child if he has no one.
This orphan boy is now caught in the mire of Australian immigration policy. This places the Minister for Immigration as his legal Guardian, and the person on whom he now depends to act in his best interests. The Minister has other interests to serve which may conflict with the best interests of this child. Any reasonable person would say that this grieving childs needs can not be met by being left alone in a detention camp. However while his identity remains secret to only the Minister and upper echelons of Canberra bureaucracy, it is unlikely that any possible Australian relatives will be found.
Detention Centres are black holes where people can be held indefinitely. All efforts to find Cornelia Rau’s family failed until a journalist reported her story and it was only then that her family found her. While we pursued these matters through the immigration department, nothing was achieved. This child needs the care of people who love him not the uncertain future of life in the misery of Australia’s overcrowded detention camps.
We are left to ask if RED CROSS tracing have been given his name?
Does this boy have relatives on another boat?
Why can’t we get the boys name so that the Iraqi and Iranian community can see if he has family here? They can’t find out without a name.
The department and Government want the public’s memory of the shipwreck erased, which is why they have pulled a veil of secrecy over the survivors, separating them even from other people in the camp.
This boy is now an unaccompanied minor or UAM. Until a valid application is lodged this child must remain in detention- no ifs, no buts and most of all no compassion. The best interests of the child are trumped every time by the Immigration Act. Who will care for this child? Most likely other grieving detainees.
As such he must apply for a protection visa and present his case to an immigration officer just like the 13, 14 and 15 year old boys have been forced to do. However before this can occur, the Minister who is his guardian must give permission for the bar to be lifted. Without this express permission nothing happens and he remains in limbo. This is not just because the boys guardian is the minister. Under the Excision laws, passed by our politicians, the minister must give this permission to each and every person who arrives by boat, including the over 442 unaccompanied children currently locked up in detention centres.
This places the Minister in the position of being responsible for both the boys best interests and his detention, of being both carer and jailer. This boys best interests can not be served by this situation.
Asylum Seeker Resource Centre
12 Batman St West Melbourne 3003
ph 03 9326 6066 / 0417517075