Figures showing 428 children remain detained demonstrate the Immigration Minister continues to flout our international obligations and neglects his duty as legal guardian to act in their best interests, the Australian Greens said today.
"Australia is still punishing, rather than protecting, vulnerable children by locking them up simply because they have fled war, torture and persecution," Greens' immigration spokesperson, Sen. Sarah Hanson-Young, said.
"We must change the law because children are being detained as a matter of course and the Immigration Minister continues to have a conflict of interest in his role.
"As the recent parliamentary inquiry into immigration detention recommended, the Minister cannot remain the legal guardian of unaccompanied children as well as being the person who decides where and how long they are jailed and detained.
"Every child in detention needs an independent advocate to act on their behalf and ensure their rights are being upheld. That's not happening, but the Greens have legislation before parliament which could fix this during the sitting period next month.
"The Immigration Department's figures also show 591 children are living in the community. That's where every child needs to be, because keeping them locked up is stunting their development and harming their mental health.
"Australian taxpayers want the government to use their money more wisely. The wise answer is a time limit on detention before moving all asylum seekers into the community once health and security checks show it is safe to do so.
"That's 90 percent cheaper to maintain than a failed policy of mandatory detention which is costing taxpayers' billions of dollars and does not deter people from seeking asylum.
"The Greens say it is shameful that of the nearly 6,000 people in detention at 31 March, more than 340 people remain detained for two years or more.
"We can only imagine the anguish and mental health damage we are causing these people. Australia remains the only Refugee Convention signatory that punishes people with indefinite detention simply because they sought our protection."