Immigration Department officials have told the Senate that 158 unaccompanied minors are in detention centres around the country, giving the government another 158 reasons why such these children need an independent advocate, the Greens said today.
"These 158 children have sought Australia's protection but none are having their voices heard independently, because of the Immigration Minister's conflict of interest," Greens' spokesperson for immigration & young people, Sen. Sarah Hanson-Young, said.
"The government must act to remove this conflict, as per the recommendations of the parliamentary inquiry into immigration, because the Immigration Minister, who is meant to be their legal guardian and advocate in their best interests, also decides on their visa and detention.
"Although the federal government is in the process of creating a National Children's Commissioner – a long term Greens' proposal – some voices will not be heard by this new official.
"The Greens again urge the government to quickly act on the recommendations of the parliamentary inquiry and establish an independent advocate to represent non-citizens including unaccompanied asylum seeker children.
"The Australian government is neglecting its domestic and international obligations such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child to ensure all children regardless of their nationality have someone advocating for their welfare.
"It should make creating an independent advocate for children a priority. The Greens are ready and willing to make this happen."