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Australian Churches censure 'state-sanctioned abuse' of child detainees

01 August 2014


Ashore: a rescuer carries a child after a boat carrying asylum seekers sank off Java island, in Cianjur, West Java, Indonesia,  on Wednesday. Rescuers were searching on Wednesday for dozens of asylum seekers still believed missing after their boat sank in Indonesian waters on the way to Australia. More than 150 survivors were brought to safety and three bodies were recovered 

Ashore: a rescuer carries a child after a boat carrying asylum seekers sank off Java island, in Cianjur, West Java, Indonesia,  on Wednesday. R...

THE Australian Federal Government has been accused of "state-sanctioned child-abuse" by the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce because of its treatment of unaccompanied child asylum-seekers in immigration detention centres in the country.

The taskforce has also called for the Minister for Immigration, Scott Morrison, to be stripped of guardianship responsibility for the children. Mr Morrison has described the accusations as "shocking and offensive", and has rejected them "categorically".

The chairman of the taskforce, the Very Revd Dr Peter Catt, the Dean of Brisbane, condemned the government's policies. He said that the children were being held "like animals in conditions that are inhumane, interrogated without support or representation, shipped around the country and offshore in the middle of the night, and denied basic rights including education".

The government's failure to heed "irrefutable independent evidence from health and legal experts about the plight of these children" meant that the taskforce had "no hesitation in labelling this what it is - statesanctioned child-abuse".

"It is a sick joke that, under Australia's inadequate Guardianship Act, their jailer is also their guardian, the Minister for Immigration," Dr Catt said.

About 135 unaccompanied children are currently in Australian onshore and offshore detention centres.

The taskforce consists of representatives from nine Christian Churches, including Anglican, Baptist, Roman Catholic, Lutheran, the Churches of Christ, and the Uniting Churches. In a report released this week, it has called for, among other things, community care for all unaccompanied children, the appointment of an independent child asylum-seekers' guardian, and an inquiry into the conditions under which children are currently being held.


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