Today is Human Rights Day: the day when people all over the world celebrate the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In Australia, we have a major human rights awards ceremony to recognise human rights champions, as well as events in schools, churches and workplaces nationwide.
On this day last year, Senator George Brandis promised, on behalf of the government, to remove all children and their families from detention by 2015. His remarks followed the release of “Forgotten Children”, a report compiling firsthand testimony from children and their families in detention, and data from psychiatrists, paediatricians and academics. The report found that detention is an incredibly dangerous place for children, and that they are being abused in record numbers, including by government officials.
Last week, the Turnbull government decided not to pass the Senate’s amendments to the Migration Act.
The amendments would have gotten kids in detention out by Christmas.
It seems that the government forgot about their Human Rights Day promise – and about the safety and wellbeing of 112 children.
The government failed to pass this bill even after polling showed that the majority of Australians want kids and their families out of detention, including over 60 per cent of voters in Prime Minister Turnbull’s electorate.
Last week, hundreds of people called Mr Turnbull’s office to urge him to bring these kids to safety before the end of the year. Throughout the year, thousands of Australians have spoken out against the detention of children, with groups like Doctors for Refugees, Mums for Refugees, Grandmothers Against Detention, and thousands of schoolkids, parents and teachers participating in a #KidsOut Solidarity Day.
Now, not only will 112 kids be locked up over Christmas – but also for the entire summer holidays, after Border Force recently barred Catholic Nuns from taking children out for day trips. No explanation was given for this decision. As other kids around Australia enjoy sun, holiday activities and time to play, 112 kids will be needlessly missing out on the chance to enjoy their childhoods.
This comes after the secretary of the Immigration Department himself has acknowledged reports of child abuse within the centres are at levels far exceeding that within the Australian community.
This Human Rights Day, we at the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre community are asking why?
Why the government has ignored the majority of Australians, as well as the Senate — who told them to get these kids out of danger?
Why the government has even barred children from having day trips – a few hours of freedom, a chance to enjoy being kids – without any explanation?
Why George Brandis has forgotten his promise, made on this day one year ago?
Why 112 children continue to be forgotten?
The Turnbull government may have forgotten its promise — but, this Human Rights Day, you can help us show people seeking asylum that thousands of us haven’t forgotten them. Click here to see how you can help.
Melanie Poole is a human rights advocate.