Gillard’s choice: which kids will she send to the camps?

6 Jun

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.

8 Responses to “Gillard’s choice: which kids will she send to the camps?”

  1. Sam Jandwich June 6, 2011 at 12:35 pm #

    Last month there was a senate inquiry into whether an independent Commissioner for Children should be established – who among other things would act as guardian for unaccompanied minors. Unfortunately the committe found that there was still too much disagreement on exactly what role the Commissioner would take on, and how the position would avoid duplicating functions currently performed by the state and territory Commissioners. The recommendation was that, while there is a lot of merit in having such a Commissioner, the position shouldn’t be created at this time due to these technical difficulties.

    Even though the Department of Immigration stated that they were aware of a perceived conflict of interest in the Minister’s position as both guardian and jailer, they – along with the other government department – were (virtually!) the only dissenting party – and pushed hard on the “workability” problem for all it was worth. Meanwhile the Minister chose not to offer a submission at all and is sticking to the line that, since the National Framework for Australia’s Children does not require a final decision on a Commissioner until September 2012, we’re all just going to have to jolly well wait until then!

    So in addition to the kids in detention facing the prospect of being sent to Malaysia, the administrative “arrangements” are being manipulated to such an extent that, in order to ensure Chris Bowen maintains final say over the lives of unaccompanied minors, Australian children are being left without an independant coordinating authority, and all the benefits that could bring.


    • Jennifer Wilson June 6, 2011 at 1:26 pm #

      That is very interesting, Sam, especially the bit about the Immigration Dept. dissent. Of course they need to keep control over unaccompanied minors who arrive in boats. The Drum has taken an extended version of the Gillard’s choice blog – maybe when it gets up you could post this information for a wider audience?


      • Sam Jandwich June 6, 2011 at 4:20 pm #

        Hmmm okie dokes. I’m not really in the habit of reading the Drum because I find it a bit of information overload. But yes will do so and I’ll try to tweak my response a little.

        Congratulations on getting the article published – and for presumably resisting the use of profanity this time. I couldn’t do it;-)


  2. Sam Jandwich June 6, 2011 at 12:38 pm #

    Oops, “department” 2nd para 3rd line is meant to be “departments”…


  3. Steve at the Pub June 6, 2011 at 9:08 pm #

    Presumably it will depend upon whether these unaccompanied minors really are minors.
    I have no problem with sending “minors” who are really 25yo off to Malaysia, or anywhere they are going to. Neither will the minister have such a problem.


  4. gerard oosterman June 6, 2011 at 10:47 pm #

    Steve at the Pub:
    So, have you got any inside information or proof that refugee children are in fact 25 year old adults or are you just flexing a bit of a minor suspicion perhaps tinged with xenophobia?


  5. Steve at the Pub June 6, 2011 at 11:07 pm #

    Inside information.

    I hope you aren’t accusing me of xenophobia. I hope not. If you are, stick to doing it on the net, as I doubt you are man enough to get away with it in person.


  6. PAUL WALTER June 7, 2011 at 1:00 am #

    Exenobia? Ah yes, so SATP is a closet student of that legendary Empress of the Palmyran empire, third century AD.
    Steve, glad to here you’d be unhappy with a traumatised kid being chucked off a plane to live in the slums or camps of KL (if lucky!)? Just wouldn’t be Australian, would it?
    Anyone watch this week’s QA?
    If you were worried about the frame of mind of Australia and many Australians, this episode would have offered very few grounds for encouragement.


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