Letter to the Editor – 16 year old in an ADULT PRISON.

In the whole Asylum Seekers debate we don’t discuss ‘people smugglers’. Who are the ‘people smugglers’? Are they the poorest of the poorest who for a few dollars for their impoverished families crew an unseaworthy boat and safely steer desperate Asylum Seekers in the last leg of the perilous journey from persecution to our shores?

Many Asylum Seekers have told me that they consider ‘people smugglers’ as their only hope, as heroes who ensure their passages across continents and seas. Much of the money the actual ‘people smugglers’ are paid is invested in bribing officials to ensure the safe passage of those fleeing persecution.

However I have met in Detention Centres and in our jails Indonesian youth accused of crewing and cooking on the boats. Recently, I discovered a 16 year old Indonesian youth in Hakea prison, an adult facility, who is accused of ‘people smuggling’. The ‘People Smugglers Act’ has no prescription to charge minors in relation to ‘people smuggling’. Bone scans are completed on these youths to ascertain their age. All of a sudden someone claiming to be 15 or 16 is 18 or 19. The Commonwealth should ensure that the Indonesian Consulate is notified of its nationals on our shores even if a Treaty does not exist to oblige this. The Consul or Vice Consul should be required to provide the date of birth of their nationals rather than a bone scan that is not failsafe. One 16 year old youth spent twelve months in a WA adult prison. There are others languishing in Australia’s mandatory Detention Centres who if kept there long enough will turn 18, however they should be allowed to return home, to their poorest of poor villages.

Last year in a visit to Hakea to push educational opportunities to some of the incarcerated folk in the prison I came across thereabouts twenty Indonesians in an English literacy class. They had been sentenced to five years for such ‘crimes’ as cooking on or steering the boats. What horrific criminality! They were to be moved on to Albany jail to do the five years and after this stretch to be deported back to abject poverty. I have never forgotten the fact that some of them did not look in the least anywhere near 18.

It is hard to get the discussion up and running about whether these people are ‘people smuggling’ and whether the agents who coordinate ‘people smuggling’ are really ‘evil’ and ‘profiteers’ or heroes similarly to Oskar Schindler. One thing for sure, kids should not be in adult prisons – end of story.

Gerry Georgatos
Phone: 0430 657 309

Gerry Georgatos

Managing Consultant – Education, Training, Advocacy

Human Rights Practice – 0430 657 309

BA (Phil), BA (Med), BA (AIS),
G/Dip (Human Rights Ed), MHumRgts, MA (Social Justice)

PhD (Law) Candidate (Australian Deaths in Custody)

Human Rights Practice

Human Rights Alliance (WA) (Australia)

Ecological, Social Justice, Aboriginal Group (WA)

‘Go tell the Spartans, Passerby, That here, obedient to their laws, we lie.’ Molwn labe

“A theologian said that all will be well with me and all permitted to the degree that I obey the Council, and he added, ‘If the council were to declare that you have but one eye, despite the fact that you may have two, it is your duty to agree with the Council.’ I replied to him: ‘Even if the whole world were to affirm that, I, utilising whatever reason I may possess, could not acknowledge such a thing without a rejection of my conscience.'” (Karel Kosik, Czech philosopher and victim)

"When enough rise, change happens."

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