24 March 2012


Thousands of children remain locked behind bars in immigration detention centres across the globe for simply fleeing for their lives and seeking safety in another country – a fundamental right of every person (Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

According to Chilout more than 500 children are detained in Australia, despite the governments stated policy that "children will not be held in immigration detention centres".

Last week saw the international launch of the International Detention Coalition in Geneva. The IDC aims to end or limit immigration detention for children or at the very least improve conditions in detention facilities. National launches also took place in twenty countries around the world at the same time.

The Geneva launch included the release of the coalition’s policy document "Captured Childhood" (available through the website). Over the past two years, the IDC has heard first-hand the stories of children and parents from all over the world who have experienced immigration detention. In total 70 children were interviewed and the experiences of 16 parents of children who had been detained were also recorded.

The report says some children were "incarcerated in squalor, placing them at risk of illness and disease", while others were "kept in circumstances that seem designed to isolate and humiliate them".

The report also pointed out that immigration detention has a profoundly negative impact on children's physical and psychological development, placing them at risk of depression, anxiety, insomnia, nightmares, bed-wetting and feelings of hopelessness and frustration.

The need for alternative approaches to managing the irregular migration of children is highlighted in the report and alternative models to ensure the rights and liberty of refugee, asylum seeker and irregular migrant children affected by immigration detention are suggested.

The International Detention Coalition website also contains suggestions for action that anyone can take.


Last month, nine European countries wrote to the Danish EU Presidency asking them to "accelerate the work of the Council" on the introduction of a Financial Transaction Tax (FTT).

Signed by the finance ministers of France, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Finland, Greece, Portugal, and Spain, as well as Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, the letter requests the first draft reading by July 2012.

The letter describes the FTT as "necessary at community level, both to ensure a fair contribution from the financial sector to the cost of the financial crisis, but also to improve the regulation of financial markets."

"We strongly believe in the need for a Financial Transaction Tax implemented at European level as a crucial instrument to secure a fair contribution from the financial sector to the costs of the financial crisis and to better regulate European financial markets,"
the letter says. The Danish EU Presidency responded saying it "welcomes" the letter and is "currently looking into how to accommodate the request."

The development suggests that the nine countries may be willing to push forwards on implementing FTTs respectively without the full consensus of the EU. Due to the shared sentiment, a progression of ‘enhanced cooperation’ may follow between the nine, with the option of other EU countries opting into the FTT in the future.
Meanwhile in Australia the Robin Hood Tax Coalition will be focusing on research to produce Australia-specific data about the implications of the Financial Transaction Tax for Australians.


The Committee of the Australian Senate charged with reviewing the Stronger Futures Bill has supported the passage of the controversial legislation despite widespread community concern about its coercive measures.

Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation (ANTaR) is very concerned that the bill has been developed without the free, prior and informed consent of Aboriginal communities, and that it will give the Government 10 more years of control.

Aboriginal Elders, community leaders and Aboriginal organisations across the Northern Territory have opposed the legislation, and are demanding the right to control their own futures. Years of this top-down policy-making by the Government have taken power away from communities and have overseen increasing poverty and social breakdown.

The Committee itself has recognised that the Government consultation process was flawed, noting with serious concern the degree of confusion, and frustration expressed in relation to the Stronger Futures consultations.

It has registered serious concerns about the proposed alcohol penalties and recommended the use of infringement notices, and has joined ANTaR in expressing reservations about the School Enrolment and Attendance Measure (SEAM).

However whilst the Committee has presented concrete recommendations for improving future consultations, and whilst amendments proposed by the Committee will improve the package of measures, according to ANTaR they do not go far enough.

A petition urging the withdrawal of the proposed legislation is available on the ANTaR website.


It has been interesting to witness the phenomenal level of interest and debate generated by the 'Kony 2012' video in recent weeks.

It is somewhat bemusing that the activities of the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) have been well known for over twenty years without attracting any of the media frenzy we are witnessing at present. It says something about the power of social media and skillful marketing strategies.

Whilst it is good that people are becoming more aware of the potential and power of advocacy and are motivated to do something to address injustice, and whilst the promotion of a campaign to bring Joseph Kony to account and protect the lives of children is a very laudable objective, given the geo-political complexities of the situation, one wonders what difference the campaign can actually make given the military operations that have already been underway for some time.

On the other hand, consider that in Africa, without treatment, nearly a third of HIV-positive infants die by their first birthday, half of all children born with HIV die before they are two years old and in 2009, 2.5 million children under 15 years were living with HIV.

In the face of this situation, the Caritas letter-writing campaign which Edmund Rice International continues to support has proved to be effective and has the potential to save the lives of millions of children.

It is to be hoped that those who have been moved to support the campaign to end the murderous activity of Joseph Kony and the LRA might also be motivated to take action on behalf of HIV-infected children.

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