Catholic migrant office joins NGO outrage against Woomera
The Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office is part of a coalition of non-government organisations (NGOs) which have joined forces to respond with outrage to the reported sexual assault of a child in the Woomera detention centre in South Australia.
There has been widespread media reporting of the alleged rape of a 12 year old boy by his father, and the suppression of the allegations by the private company running the centre for fear of a penalty of up to $20,000 if it were found negligent. The allegations, which came from Centrecare Catholic Family Services director Dale West and former Woomera staff, were treated with scorn by Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock, who has now announced an enqiry.
The coalition of NGOs supports the Minister's announcement of an inquiry, but still seeks a wider enquiry into detention centres in general. It expressed its particular concern on the way the Minister's Department dealth with allegations of abuse in Woomera, claims that the company had attempted to suppress allegations of abuse, and the lack of qualified child workers at the centre.
"More than half the world's refugees are children," Louis Schetzer of the National Children's & Youth Law Centre said on behalf of the NGOs. "Yet when asylum-seeker children arrive in Australia without proper papers, we mandatorily detain them in isolated detention centres run by a private prison company. Woomera is the 21st century equivalent of throwing people into a prison hulk."
Speaking for the Australian Council of Churches, Anglican Archbishop Ian George called for families with young children to be put in an urban-based reception centre and have their application for refugee status fast-tracked.
Other NGOs supporting the statement are Amnesty International, the Asian Women's Human Rights Council, Australian National Committee of Refugee Women, Christian World Service, National Council of Churches in Australia, Defence for Children International, National Children's & Youth Law Centre, Pax Christi International (NSW), Refugee Council of Australia
The Centre for Refugee Research UNSW, and the Uniting Church in Australia.