The Human Rights Commission’s inquiry into children in detention was tabled in parliament last night, on the very last available day for it’s tabling.
The inquiry produced a damning report detailing the welfare of children kept in indefinite detention after arriving in Australia. It found that Australia was committing serious human rights abuses by keeping children in detention and exposing them to physical and psychological abuse and compromised health and wellbeing.
“The overarching finding of the inquiry is that the prolonged, mandatory detention of asylum seeker children causes them significant mental and physical illness and developmental delays, in breach of Australia’s international obligations,” the report reads.
The report issued 16 recommendations to the government, several of which have already been explicitly dismissed by members of the Abbott government’s front bench.
The report recommended a Royal Commission be launched immediately into Australia’s treatment of children in detention.
On top of this, the report recommended the immediate release of every child in detention on Australian soil as well as in the offshore processing centre on Nauru. This demand for release is based on evidence that the children being held in these facilities were being exposed to damaging conditions that amount to a breach of their inalienable human rights.
This evidence included 233 recorded assaults against children and 33 recorded incident assaults and sexual assaults. On top of this, it found 128 reported incidents of children harming themselves.
The report says children in detention on Nauru are “suffering from extreme levels of physical, emotional, psychological and developmental distress”.
The report demands that the detention centre on Christmas Island be closed for good and that all children in every facility be released into the Australian community.
It also calls for the removal of Immigration Minister Peter Dutton as guardian for unaccompanied children and for him to be replaced by an independent person able to ensure the children’s welfare.
Given that Australia has been found to be breaching international human rights law and endangering the welfare of children, the Human Rights Commission recommended it take action immediately.
The Federal Government has indicated it will not be doing so.
This morning Prime Minister Tony Abbott attacked the Human Rights Commission and accused it of being biased and partisan.
When asked on radio this morning if he feels any guilt over the treatment of children in detention centre, he was adamant.
He said the Commission should be thanking Scott Morrison for stopping the boats.
“I reckon that the HRC ought to be sending a note of congratulations to Scott Morrison saying ‘well done mate… because your actions have been very good for the human rights and the human flourishing of thousands of people’,” he said.
He has also indicated he will not be launching a Royal Commission.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton also indicated the government would not be acting on the recommendations of the inquiry.
“I’m not going to be lectured to by people who want to misinterpret the current situation,” he said.
“We can release children from the detention centres now and let me tell you, the boats start up again, the detention centres will be reoccupied and that is not something that we are going to tolerate.”