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The Chairman of the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council, Bishop Christopher Saunders, has expressed deep concern over the proposed detention of children and families in remote immigration facilities.

“There is something particularly uncaring about locking away children and families in a starkly isolated facility such as Curtin in the Kimberley”, Bishop Saunders said. “I have seen first-hand the conditions of this place and the physical and mental trauma experienced by older detainees who had already suffered greatly.

“The Minister says that families and children will be detained for migration checks for the shortest possible time. But the Government gave similar undertakings in 2008, and recent figures reveal that the average time adults and children are spending in detention is almost five months.

“Women and children are particularly vulnerable and to detain them in places like Curtin calls into question Australia’s commitments under international law – particularly those of the Convention on the Rights of the Child”, Bishop Saunders said.

“The benefits of releasing families into the community will be offset by preventing them from taking up the right to work in order to support themselves. The limited government payments available to them will ensure they struggle to survive as they are placed well below the poverty line. I am worried that we could be creating an underclass of severely marginalised people who could be subject to exploitation”, Bishop Saunders said.

“Isolated facilities are the wrong place to keep traumatised children and parents. We have an obligation in justice to see to it that they have the means to feed, clothe and house themselves while they are in the community and their claims are being processed. The basic requirement of justice must be to ensure those who have fled the desperation and disaster of their homelands do not now face destitution in Australia”, Bishop Saunders concluded.

For further information:
Bishop Christopher Saunders
Chairman, ACSJC                Tel: 0418 260 155

John Ferguson
National Executive Officer, ACSJC        Tel: 02 8306 3499

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