Excerpted from an Australian Medical Research Study published in the Journal of Paediatrics, 2004.
Minister Kenney at CIC has signalled Canada will now follow Australia’s lead. Detention (without full legal process) of our children and youth refugee claimants is permitted when DCOs are soon announced.
“” Article 37 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child states that holding children in detention shall be used as a measure of last resort and only for the shortest possible time.
The Human Rights & Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) expressed concern about Australia’s compliance with Convention obligations, and so conducted its own inquiry into newly arrivedchildren in detention in Australia. Detrimental effects of detention were found to be extensive in Australia, as well as in several other countries. The report of the HREOC National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention was tabled in Parliament on 13 May 2004. Similarly the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) expressed concerns about ‘the psychological impact’ of detention, its ‘automatic and indiscriminate character, its potentially indefinite duration and the absence of judicial control of the legality of detention’.
Children are particularly vulnerable to psychological trauma resulting from long periods of insecure residency, exposure to harsh treatment, confinement, deprivation and exposure to unstimulating environments. Such experiences create additional vulnerability in children and adolescents due to their incomplete biopsychosocial development, dependency, inability to understand certain life events51 their underdevelopment of coping skills52 and their experiences of past separation. Detention has been found to undermine parental capabilities with children experiencing suboptimal parenting as a consequence of the stresses of their confinement and creating further difficulties when families are finally resettled.
Being unaccompanied or separated from family members, whether in detention or in the community creates further stresses for children. Unaccompanied minors, mostly adoles- cents, lack social support groups, relatives and other natural mentors. Additionally, fear of being returned to their country of origin whilst awaiting refugee determination status may be psychologically damaging. Many unaccompanied adolescents hold TPVs, making them vulnerable to repatriation and impairing their capacity to feel settled and secure. Preliminary research amongst ( some refugees) reveal that the social deprivations experienced are associated with increased levels of psychological disability. Decreased health service utilization has also been reported as a result of uncertainty and fear associated with status. Unaccompanied and separated children in particular should be provided with appropriate protection and care due to the greater risk of psychological and health problems than their accompanied peers. Providers should be aware of the specific experiences of children who have previously been in detention….”