ROYAL COMMISSION REPORT HIGHLIGHTS THE AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT’S ONGOING TRAUMATISING TREATMENT OF FAMILIES IN IMMIGRATION DETENTION

At the beginning of 2015, a young boy, aged 9 years old, was sexually abused in an Australian on-shore detention centre.  In response, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) moved the family to another state, where the children (two sons) were separated from their father. The two sons were placed in care, while the father remained in closed detention. The family was extremely upset at being separated during this very difficult time.

There are no allegations of abuse against the father or detention centre staff.

Two years later, the father was informed that his other son, at the time aged 7 years old, reported that he too was abused. The son says this occurred at the same time as his older brother was abused.
The father remains in detention after approximately 5 years. The sons, now aged 11 and 9, remain in care in a group home. They wish to be reunited.

The Government-established Immigration Assessment Authority (IAA) has remitted a Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) decision for reconsideration by the DIBP, with the direction that “there are substantial grounds for believing that, as a necessary and foreseeable consequence of the referred applicants being removed from Australia to a receiving country, there is a real risk that each of the referred applicants will suffer significant harm.” ie. This family should be recognised as refugees.  Indeed, the UNHCR has already recognised the family as refugees.

In light of the most recent allegation of sexual abuse and the IAA direction, Human Rights for All (HR4A) requested the DIBP and the Minister of Immigration and Border Protection, Minister Dutton, to release the father as soon as possible. Instead, the DIBP has notified HR4A that it wants further submissions made to secure the release of the father.  The DIBP and Minister Dutton have had several months to request this information after the abuse of the youngest boy was uncovered.  Instead, they have waited until just before Christmas.  The family will now spend a third Christmas separated.

HR4A made submissions to the Royal Commission regarding the response of the DIBP and Minister Dutton.  These submissions were taken into account in its final report, particularly at Volume 15, where the family is specifically mentioned. [1]

Director Principal of HR4A, Alison Battisson, said of the Royal Commission’s report:

“The Royal Commission final report highlights many recent and historical issues.  The lack, however, of an appropriate institutional response by the DIBP and Dutton for this family is happening now and on-going. The father needs to be released now. Separating a family where both children have been sexually abused is unacceptable. One of the main reasons for having a Commission is to change institutional responses. So let’s start that change now.

“The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse has considered submissions regarding the abuse suffered by this family, and included recommendations in its final report.  The DIBP and Dutton should consider these and change their harmful practices immediately.  Reunite this family now.

“The separation of these children from their father, and the continual detention of there is a clear breach of their human rights. The mental health of the boys continues to deteriorate.

“The Australian Government and the DIBP have failed to respond in any meaningful way to multiple requests to alleviate this family’s suffering during the last three years.”