The Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) has today contacted all Government members urging them to support Senate legislative amendments aimed at freeing children from immigration detention.

RCOA chief executive officer Paul Power said his organisation was appealing to the Prime Minister and his Government to follow the example of the Howard Government which acted in 2005 to release all children from immigration detention centres.

“The Refugee Council of Australia has welcomed the current government’s significant reduction of the number of children in detention, from the peak of 1,992 children detained in July 2013 to 112 children detained in Australian facilities at the beginning of this month,” Mr Power said.

“However, we are disturbed by the fact that the average length of detention of children has increased considerably, to more than 14 months.

“Everyone is well aware that any child kept in indefinite detention suffers considerable physical and psychological damage. As the Government and the nation agreed in 2005, there is no need to lock up a child while his or her immigration status is being resolved. This damaging practice must end.”

Yesterday, the Senate amended the Migration and Maritime Powers Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2015, introducing new provisions to limit the detention of children and increase the transparency of Australia’s detention network.

“When this legislation was introduced, RCOA made a submission to the Parliamentary committee examining it, outlining concerns about provisions which may place people seeking protection at greater risk. We retain those concerns but have asked MPs and Senators to support the amendments which address the widespread concern among Australians about the continued detention of children.

“The Howard Government achieved the release of all children from detention by developing a series of community-based alternatives to detention. Those alternatives continue to exist and work well. Our plea is that they now be applied to every child currently locked up.”

For more information contact Tim O’Connor 0431 147 366 or (02) 9211 9333