The Gillard government’s deal with Malaysia on asylum seekers has taken yet another turn. Immigration Minister Chris Bowen has now conceded that he will decide whether or not to send unaccompanied children to the camps on a “case by case” basis.
Just what will be the criteria for these choices? How will the Minister assess which of the unaccompanied children (in his legal care as their guardian) he will send to the Malaysian camps?
Does Bowen have a conflict of interest in this situation? As the children’s guardian, should he not be putting their welfare before his duty to Gillard? Isn’t the well being of these children his first responsibility? How would we deal with any other legal guardian who subjected their charges to unacceptable risks?
In these camps unaccompanied children are at risk of physical, sexual, psychological, and emotional abuse; exploitation, inadequate nutrition, and loss of the childhood to which the UNHCR Convention claims all children are entitled.
What are the criteria the Gillard government will use to judge which unaccompanied child is “suitable” to be subjected to the perils and abuses of a Malaysian camp, and which unaccompanied child is not?
If we are to observe the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which we are, as usual, signatory, we cannot send any unaccompanied child to Malaysia.
And the Minister’s suitability to continue as guardian to unaccompanied refugee children needs to be urgently addressed.