As the plight of child asylum seekers separated from their parents fades from the news, hundreds of children remain incarcerated and separated from their families, writes Barry Sheppard from San Francisco.
Every day, Manus Island detainees negotiate rocky ground strewn with coral, rotting shower blocks and “filthy” living conditions. They do this mostly in rubber thongs. A cut foot is likely, septicemia possible and a heart attack followed by a coma and brain death? Wait a minute, let’s go back.
Soft brown eyes flicked furtively towards the guard’s room, then back to the ripe luscious strawberry she had carefully placed on the table’s edge. She waited for the guard’s laconic indifference to blend into the certainty of distraction, then secreted the treasure in her loose pocket. “For my friend,” she confided, while a hint of defiance momentarily lit up eyes that for most of our visit had spilled out a lifetime of sorrow and loss. “My pregnant friend.”
The Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network (DASSAN) released documents exposing the “appalling” extent of child self-harm in a Darwin detention centre on February 18. DASSAN obtained the documents via a Freedom of Information request, which took the department of immigration more than nine months to release. They detail 26 cases of self-harm by detained refugees aged 9 to 17 between August 2010 and November 2011. Spokesperson Fernanda Dahlstrom said the documents “concern one detention centre over a relatively short period of time”.
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