16 March 2015
The Independent Member for Denison, Andrew Wilkie, has condemned the Prime Minister for refusing to explain why more than half of all asylum seeker children in detention in Australia will be sent back to Nauru, rather than freed into the community in Australia as previously suggested by the Government.
Mr Wilkie asked Tony Abbott in Question Time today:
“Prime Minister, the Government claims asylum seeker children in detention in Australia are being freed. But in fact more than half of these children are being sent to the Republic of Nauru which is just 21 square kilometres, has a population less than 10,000 people and a 90 per cent unemployment rate. Prime Minister, why does the Government think that some kids are less precious than others?’’
Mr Abbott refused to answer the question and referred to the kids as “illegal maritime arrival children’’.
“Many of these children who are to be sent to Nauru are currently in Australia because they are suffering mental health problems due to their treatment at the hands of the Australian Government, and all the Prime Minister can do is label them criminals,’’ Mr Wilkie said.
Mr Wilkie said that last month 126 children were locked up in immigration detention in Australia and 116 on Nauru. But half of the 126 children in Australian detention centres – many receiving treatment for mental health problems – are due to be returned to Nauru rather than be released in Australia.
“In a cruel sleight of hand, the Government would have the public believe that asylum seeker children in detention in Australia are being released into the community,’’ Mr Wilkie said.
“But the truth is more than half of these children will never be free in Australia and will instead be sent back to the misery of Nauru.’’
Mr Wilkie has requested the International Criminal Court investigate, in accordance with Article 15(1) of the Rome Statute, the Prime Minister and his Cabinet for crimes against humanity in relation to asylum seekers.
Actions such as forced transfers to other countries, detention without trial, detention of children and conditions of detention clearly constitute breaches of Article 7 of the Statute.
The Government’s policies are in violation of fundamental principles of international law including, inter alia, those contained in the Refugee Convention, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention against Torture and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. These are breaches in their own right, and also form a foundation for several contraventions of Article 7.