Target: Australian Government
Goal: End the illegal transfer of child asylum seekers from Australia to offshore islands
The Australian government has recently resurrected a policy that ships asylum seekers to offshore facilities outside of Australian jurisdiction. Among those affected are child asylum seekers, often transferred away from Australian soil without an accompanying parent or guardian. Such callous disregard for the plight of these young people flies in the face of Australia’s obligations under international law and treaties. Call upon the Australian government to repeal this policy once and for all.
Asylum seekers, often survivors of both a traumatic event in their home country and a perilous journey to Aussie shores, are legally entitled to have their refugee claims heard before being forcibly moved from Australian turf. Furthermore, any unaccompanied child is guaranteed guardianship and legal assistance under international law.
The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has made clear the need to provide migrant children with basic services by qualified professionals, regardless of citizen status. Nonetheless, Australia continues to expel child asylum seekers to offshore facilities in Manus Island of Papua New Guinea and Nauru to await the processing of their claims.
Migrants have had to spend as much as five years on Manus or Nauru waiting for results. In the meantime, they are exposed to high rates of infection and mental health problems. Mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria run rampant on Manus, and migrants are forced to live in tents while waiting for Australia to begin construction on more permanent buildings.
Most troubling are studies which show that children who are forced to live for long periods of time in immigration facilities experience declining mental health, including anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Simply keeping these young people on Australian shores can solve these problems.
Call upon the Australian government to end these terrible policies and protect these children.
Dear Australian Government,
The reinstatement of policies that transfer asylum seekers offshore and outside of Australian jurisdiction is a step backwards for human rights. Most importantly, it is directly harming children who survive traumatic events in their homelands and perilous journeys overseas simply to reach the hope signified by the Australian shore.
Under international law, Australia is obligated to assist these child asylum seekers. The 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees says asylum seekers are entitled to have their claims heard by a judicial authority before being forcibly removed from Australian soil.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child specifies that “the best interests of the child” must be put first, and this means providing them with basic services by qualified professionals. Shipping child asylum seekers to the islands of Manus or Nauru demonstrate a significant failure on the part of Australia to live up to international obligations.
Furthermore, it has been documented that in going to one of these island processing facilities, young people are being disproportionately exposed to unnecessary health hazards. Mental illness, lack of shelter, high rates of infection, and a large quantity of mosquito-borne diseases await many transferred migrants. Studies also show that children in immigration facilities are more prone to declining mental health.
I call upon you to repeal this dangerous policy and put children first.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: mckaysavage via Flickr