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Full response from senator Lisa Singh

A spokesman from the office of ALP senator Lisa Singh told The Conversation by email that:

In seeking to illustrate how processing has slowed and refugee detainees are being made to languish for longer, we submit this info. That covers the “languishing” on Manus – not a single person processed and re-settled in two years.

As for Nauru, some have technically been processed, but are languishing in filthy tents, at risk of assault and rape – which might statistically count as processing, but which we do not class as properly processed and resettled.

Also, the quotes below are taken from this page on the Australian Human Rights Commission’s website page about the Forgotten Children report:


Australia currently holds about 800 children in mandatory closed immigration detention for indefinite periods, with no pathway to protection or settlement. This includes 186 children detained on Nauru.

Children and their families have been held on the mainland and on Christmas Island for, on average, one year and two months. Over 167 babies have been born in detention within the last 24 months.

This Report gives a voice to these children.

Commission decision to conduct an Inquiry

By July 2013, the number of children detained reached 1,992. As the federal election was imminent, I decided to await the outcome of the election, and any government changes in asylum seeker policy, before considering launching an Inquiry.

By February this year, it became apparent that there had been a slowing down of the release of children.

Over the first six months of the new Coalition Government the numbers of children in detention remained relatively constant. Not only were over 1000 children held in detention by February 2014, but also they were being held for longer periods than in the past, with no pathway to resettlement.

The remaining quotes are taken from the AHRC’s report itself:

Further announcements tightening asylum seeker policy by Prime Minister Rudd on 19 July 2013 left the vast majority of asylum seekers in detention in limbo. The policy implemented by the Labor Government and continued by the Coalition Government, specifies that anyone who arrives by boat without a visa since this date in July is liable to transfer to Nauru or Manus Island and will never be settled in Australia.

The claims of these asylum seekers have not been processed and they face uncertainty as to their future. The suspension of processing has had a profound impact on the time that people have waited to have their refugee claims assessed. It has also prolonged the detention of children in onshore and offshore facilities.

By 2014, this has resulted in a significant lengthening of time that asylum seekers have spent in detention. In March 2014, children had been detained for 231 days on average.

At the time of writing this report, children and adults have been detained for over a year and two months on average – over 413 days. There are currently over 100 babies who have been born in detention – with no life experience outside the confines of the detention centres.

It is in this context that the President of the Australian Human Rights Commission launched a national inquiry into children in immigration detention on 3 February 2014.

The decision to conduct this Inquiry was part of the Commission’s regular annual planning processes in mid-2013. This was during the lead up to the federal election at which asylum seeker policies were high profile.

While the number of people in detention started to drop from its peak numbers in mid-2013, the Commission had significant concerns at the increasing time periods that children were spending in detention.

From page 19:

Australia is the only country in the world with a policy that imposes mandatory and indefinite immigration detention on asylum seekers as a first action. While other countries detain children for matters related to immigration, including Greece, Israel, Malaysia, Mexico, South Africa and the U.S.; detention in these countries is not mandatory and does not occur as a matter of course.

From page 56:

In March 2014, children in Australian detention centres had been held for 231 days (approximately 8 months) on average. By September 2014, the average length of detention for children and adults was one year two months.

Also see Chart 10, page 56:

The Forgotten Children report, CC BY

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