3 November 2010
Signatories to the statement included the World Bank, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, UNICEF, UNESCO, the UN Development Programme, the International Labour Organization, the International Organization for Migration and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, whose head Ms. Navanethem Pillay led the effort.
The statement was welcomed by the Secretary-General of the International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC) Johann Ketelers who noted that "For years - and all too much recently - even their (irregular migrants) most basic human rights have widely been denied, ignored or considered only in pieces or symptoms."
He went on to point out the important contribution of irregular migrants to the economy as well as the individual, family and societal costs of leaving such an enormous class of people outside the law, outside protection, exposed to exploitation, abuse and expulsion.
In the meantime the recent decision of the Australian Government to Children in Detention was cautiously welcomed by advocacy groups such as the Edmund Rice Centre,Chilout and the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC).
The ASRC noted that the release of some children and families will make a significant positive difference to their welfare. However it was noted that:-
- The policy of mandatory detention of children remains unchanged.
- All new children and families who arrive undocumented will still be detained.
- The policy does not provide legal protections to limit how long children can be detained.
- There is no change of laws to enshrine what is an ‘at risk’ family to ensure they are released into the community.
- The policy shift is contradicted and undermined by the establishment of a new detention centre to house up to 400 families in South Australia and the expansion of the detention facility in Broadmeadows for up to 100 more family members.
- It does not guarantee the release of all children and families and only makes an in-principle promise of an undefined ‘majority’ by June 2011.
- It fails to recognize that all families in detention are at risk and have experienced some form of trauma.
- It releases children and families on community detention arrangements (residence determinations) instead of bridging visas which would have given them more rights and be better for their welfare and mental health due to the security it would have provided.
- It appears to place the burden on caring for children and families on charities and churches rather than on the Government itself.
- It fails to establish any independent watchdog or scrutiny to ensure the Government’s detention values are acted upon within set time limits and with consistency.