The Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network released the statement below on January 27.
The Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network (DASSAN) yesterday referred the names of 27 Vietnamese unaccompanied minors who are being detained at the Darwin Airport Lodge (DAL) to the Northern Territory Child Protection Services. Northern Territory law obliges people to alert the child protection services if they believe that a child has or is likely to suffer harm or exploitation. Harm is defined in the relevant legislation to include psychological or emotional harm.
The children, the youngest of whom is seven years old, have been locked up in immigration detention since May 2011 and were moved to the DAL earlier this week from Port Augusta in South Australia. Darwin detention centres have seen countless numbers of suicide attempts and self harm incidents in the past 12 months. DASSAN is aware of children in the DAL that have self harmed and are on medication as a result of their incarceration.
DASSAN spokesperson Rohan Thwaites said: “The Government has been told by countless mental health professionals about the harmful affects of locking up children in immigration detention, yet they continue to do it. These children are at risk of psychological or emotional harm as a result of being detained and they should be removed from the source of the harm, detention centres...
“[Immigration minister] Mr [Chris] Bowen should be removed as the guardian of these children and they should be immediately transferred to the community where they will be able to receive the support and services that they require free from the trauma of detention centres...
“In October 2011 the Government said it would remove most children from detention, acknowledging that incarceration harms their mental health and development, and yet here we are in February 2012 and there are approximately 170 children detained in Darwin alone. The government must pledge to remove all children from detention and then stick to that pledge.”