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Adelaide archbishop prepared to care for more detainee children

The Catholic Church would be happy to consider a partnership with the Federal Government for community care of detainee children, according to Adelaide's Archbishop Philip Wilson.

The archbishop was making an impassioned plea to Federal authorities to show compassion and not send five released children back to the Baxter Detention Centre in South Australia.

He said it would be "devastating and cruel" if the five Bakhtiyari children - two brothers, aged 15 and 13, and their sisters, aged six, nine and 11 - are forced to return to the centre.

"The Church's care of the five released children could serve as a model for the alternative care of detained children," he said. "My primary concern is for the welfare of these children. But we'd be delighted to look after more children.

The Bakhtiyari children are now in foster care arranged by Centacare in South Australia.

Archbishop Wilson has spent an hour with the children, where he happily chatted with them and presented them with five giant chocolate frogs.

Archbishop Wilson praised Centacare, the Catholic welfare agency which has looked after the children and accommodated them in a suburban Adelaide house.

"The fact that they were handed over into the care of the archdiocese through Centacare gives me great joy," he said. "Centacare has demonstrated its ability to respond to the needs of the children."

Meanwhile the ABC reported yesterday that there is concern the children are not able to see their father. The three girls and two boys are allowed to have regular visits with their mother, who is in Adelaide for medical treatment.

But the family's lawyer Paul Boylen says the Immigration Department has stipulated the children can only see their father at Baxter, which goes against the advice of experts.

"Indeed one of the psychologists says that to avoid the re-traumatising experience of confronting the fact that their parents continue to remain in detention, contact between the children and their parents should not occur at the Baxter detention centre," Mr Boylen said.

Catholic Weekly

Church offers care of detainees (5/7/03)
Bishops welcome release of detention centre children (26/8/03)
Court orders children's release from detention centre (ABC Radio The World Today)
Children released, Ruddock rebuffed (The Age)

11 Sep 2003