Feature

Australia: Where kids are kept in desert jails

The refugee children are shut away “in remote and inaccessible locations where their detention is out of sight, and so out of mind” said George Williams in The Age.

George WilliamsThe Age

Once again, Australia is holding more than a thousand refugee children in hot, dusty detention centers in the outback, said George Williams. The last time we detained large numbers of kids, “things ended badly.” Reports found that many of them “suffered serious mental illness,” including post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, arising not from the traumas they’d fled but from “their treatment at our hands.” After a public outcry, the government temporarily ended such detentions in 2005.

But it never changed the laws that allow the incarceration of immigrant children, and over the years young kids have been shunted to remote locations again and again. Nearly every legal challenge to this practice has failed. The High Court has consistently ruled that children of asylum seekers “can be held indefinitely,” even under “harsh or inhumane conditions.”

How can Australians allow such a thing? We simply choose not to notice. The children are shut away “in remote and inaccessible locations where their detention is out of sight, and so out of mind.” It is understandable that Australians want to protect their borders. But locking up little kids in the desert is not the way to do it.

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