Australia: JRS welcomes government move on detention

18 October 2010|Oliver White

Fence of one of the many detention centers in Australia.(JRSAP)

Sydney, 18 October 2010 – JRS Australia has welcomed the announcement by the government that it intends to move children and vulnerable families from detention into community-based accommodation.

According to JRS, community and charitable organisations with expertise in this area would be well-placed to cooperate with government in caring for this group of people.

“Our position it that this is a very good initiative, a good response to what we and other asylum-seeker and refugee agencies have been advocating for a while now: we cannot keep people in detention for indefinite periods of time, especially those who are most vulnerable, unaccompanied minors and families with children”, said JRS Australia Director, Sacha Bermudez-Goldman SJ.

“This initiative is more in line with the New Directions in Detention policy which the government first mooted in July 2008, and which signalled that keeping people in detention centres would be only used as a last resort and for limited periods of time. It is also a good opportunity for community and church-based organisations to get involved and make their resources available to this vulnerable group”, added Fr Bermudez-Goldman SJ

Prioritising the most vulnerable

In its statement, the government announced it would begin moving ‘significant numbers’ of children and vulnerable families out of detention and into community-based accommodation.

“Although it is difficult to determine the degree of vulnerability when most of those being considered are children, it is clear that unaccompanied minors, alone and without the support of their parents, constitute a highly vulnerable group”, continued Fr Bermudez-Goldman.

This change will provide opportunities for unaccompanied minors, who are not currently doing so, to attend school, offering them skills, technical or otherwise, that they will later be able to use in the community if they are granted protection in Australia, or back in their countries of origin if they have to return home.

The Provincial of the Australian Jesuits, Fr Steve Curtin SJ, said any effort to remove children and vulnerable families from detention was long overdue.

“There is substantial evidence that prolonged detention is harmful to the health of people, and the Jesuits are delighted that the government has decided to make this change”, he said.

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