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Asylum seeker children in limbo

Adelaide's Centacare Catholic Welfare agency has said the lives of the Bakhtiyari children are on hold until Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone decides their future later this month.

The five children are currently attending Adelaide schools and remain in the care of Centacare.

Rejection from Senator Vanstone will mean a return to Baxter detention centre near Port Augusta, and eventual deportation to Pakistan.

Alamdar and Muntazar achieved national notoriety in 2002 after protesters cut them out of Woomera detention centre, took them to Melbourne and dumped them at the British embassy. They then spent three years in Baxter, where their father Ali remains, before being released in August last year.

The three girls had been in the Baxter residential housing project with their mother, Roqia - also in detention at an Adelaide hotel - but Centacare director Dale West said the project was basically a public relations exercise.

"What you are talking about is people really suffering because they don't have any free will in anything they do 24 hours a day," Mr West said.

"It's a psychological jail, that's the way I would describe it and the way they describe it."

Meanwhile the National Council of Churches in Australia (NCCA) has backed the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission's damning finding of Federal Government responsibility for cases of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of detained asylum seeker children.

Based on evidence from the Immigration Department's own court-subpoenaed documents, the Commission's report of the Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention details gross government failures to protect children during violent protests when the riot squad, tear gas, water canons and severe lock-down procedures were deployed.

Following the Commission's findings, churches have suupported its call to abolish mandatory detention laws and are counting-down to the June 10 deadline for the release of all children and their family members.

"Australia is committed to acting in the best interests of every child," said NCCA General-Secretary Rev. John Henderson. "Yet every day that passes is another day in which parents are unable to shield their children from the violence around them, from the heated protests and suicide attempts, from the despair of those detained, from the dehumanising effect of being treated as an illegal or a number."

Bakhtiyari children in limbo (The Australian 14/5/04)
Churches back calls for release of abused detainee children (Insights 13/5/04)

Australia breaches children's human rights (Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission 13/5/04)
No more children for Baxter, pleads SA (ABC West Coast SA 13/5/04)
Vanstone critical of Human Rights Commission report (ABC Radio PM 13/5/04)

14 May 2004