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Mr Bowen should visit Leonora

Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, as the legal guardian of unaccompanied children, should pay a visit to the Leonora detention centre to meet 160 children and young people who have been denied the chance to attend school, the Australian Greens said today.

"The Greens are concerned by reports that 160 children are languishing in the remote centre, away from class rooms and other vital services they need to integrate into Australian life should they be granted refugee status," Greens' immigration spokesperson, Sen. Sarah Hanson-Young, said.

"Detention has never been an appropriate place for children. The isolation of Leonora increases our concern.

"Some have reportedly been detained for up to two years. That's unacceptably long for anyone, especially children.

"As the sole legal guardian of unaccompanied minors, Minister Bowen must explain how the long-term detention of children is in their best interest and what he's doing to maintain their welfare.

"The Labor government had promised to remove children from detention and while this has happened for some, it clearly hasn't happened for all.

"This again highlights the conflict of interest in having a minister in charge of their visa status also the same person who is meant to be responsible for their welfare as their legal guardian.

"The law continues to dictate that children are detained, only to be removed at the whim of the minister.

"That's why we need the parliament in 2012 to grant an independent guardian to all unaccompanied children and amend the Migration Act to make the detention of children illegal.

"An independent guardian or advocate would be responsible for the welfare of citizens and non-citizens, such as those children whose development is being delayed by keeping them locked up in Leonora."


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