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Centacare director 'devastated' by Govt demands

Adelaide Centacare director Dale West has said he is "devastated" that the organisation has had to withdraw its care of the Bakhtiyari asylum seeker children because of what it says are untenable Government demands.

"The Government basically wanted us to act as 24-hour guards over the children and we weren't prepared to do it," a bitterly disappointed Mr West told the Southern Cross newspaper.

Mrs Roqia Bakhtiyari and her eight-month old son Mazhar were recently reunited with the five children in the suburban Adelaide home they had been living in under Centacare's care for the past nine months. Under the new arrangement, officers from Family and Youth Services will take over the care of the family.

Mr West said while it was hard for Centacare to relinquish its care of the children, the operational principles the organisation works under means it couldn't meet the demands imposed by the Department of Immigration.

"They would only allow us to continue to be involved with the care of the children if we signed a community detention agreement, which basically required us to work as 'guards' supervising the children 24 hours a day, seven days a week in a detention-style atmosphere. We just weren't prepared to sign such an agreement.

"We just don't think that 24-hour supervision is the best way for these kids to develop as young people," he said. "We've proved, for nine months, that constant supervision is not necessary. We've had them catching the bus to school and riding their bikes - and we haven't had one problem in that time."

Mr West said he was disappointed that Centacare's decision has been portrayed by the Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone and sections of the media as a result of its "not being up to the task".

Mr West said while Centacare would not be involved in the day-to-day care of the family, it would still keep in contact on a 'friends' basis. "The Catholic Church will continue to provide the house for the family to live in, and Centacare will provide their motor vehicle and the expenses of sending them to school. We have developed very strong ties with the children and we will always be there for them in that respect."

Bakhtiyari decision 'devastating' (Southern Cross July 2004)

Asylum seeker children in limbo (CathNews 14/5/04)
HREOC backs Adelaide Centacare on asylum-seeker children's suffering (CathNews 7/5/04)
Children's release from detention "unlawful" (CathNews 30/4/04)
Centacare Adelaide
Honoured advocate says Pope against detaining children (CathNews 3/3/04)
Pope honours Australian human rights worker (ABC 2/3/04)
Pope against detention: Honouree (The Age/AAP 2/3/04)
Centacare calls for extension of Regional Visa scheme to asylum seekers (CathNews 14/1/04)
Centacare Adelaide tells why asylum seeker committed suicide (CathNews 10/2/03)
Centacare director pressuring Govt to release detention centre video (CathNews 8/11/02)
Adelaide Centacare slams Govt deaf ears on child detainee report (CathNews 14/5/03)
Adelaide Centacare optimistic about fate of child detainees (CathNews 29/7/03)

30 Jun 2004