Report recommends release of child refugees on Manus Island

CHILD refugees being detained on Australia's temporary offshore processing centre on Manus Island must be urgently released, a report from the United Nation's refugee agency has recommended.

The latest UN High Commissioner for Refugees report comes after a visit to Manus Island by refugee agency representatives in mid-January.

Also contained in the report were accusations both the Australian and Papua-New Guinean governments were breaching international refugee law.

The report acknowledged both governments' serious commitment to ensuring the offshore detention centre was in line with the 1951 Refugee Convention.

But it also said there were "still very significant inadequacies" in the legal and operational framework around the centre, particularly with the system which determines whether people are genuine refugees.

The report said continued delays and uncertainty surrounding the start of the refugee determination process remained "inconsistent with the primary, and arguably, sole purpose" of transfer to the centre.

It also said while both governments were doing their best to improve the temporary detention centre, "there remains no clear timeframe as to when more permanent and suitable facilities will be put in place".

The latest mission to Manus Island recommended the current practice of detaining children "should be terminated as a matter of priority".

It said once the preliminary health checks of children had been completed; minors should be immediately removed from the detention centre, to a "child-appropriate and open centre environment".

The UNHCR also wrote the lack of an appropriate legal framework for children and the delays in establishing procedures to assess children's refugee protection needs was "particularly troubling.

This latest report follows a UNHCR mission to Nauru last year, a report on which said refugees who were suffering from trauma were being detained in "harsh, aggravating conditions" on Australia's other offshore centre.

Greens immigration spokeswoman Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said the detention of children on Manus Island was robbing them of their childhood.

"The UNHCR says that no more children should be subjected to the traumatic conditions offshore and the Greens have long been urging the government to bring all of the children who are already on the island back to Australia," she said.

"The government has to listen to the UNHCR's report which contains a number of recommendations, including the immediate processing of claims for asylum and drastic improvement of conditions in the centre."

The newly-minted Minister for Immigration Brendan O'Connor was sworn in as the new minister on Monday, and was unable to respond to questions on the report.

 

Refugees on Manus Island:

  • 80 Sri Lankans
  • 49 Afghans
  • 47 Iranians
  • 27 Iraqis
  • 16 Pakistanis
  • 2 Kuwaitis
  • 34 children

Total: 221 refugees. Source: UNHCR, current as of January 15.



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