July 14, 2013
Hundreds of children remain behind the secure perimeter of immigration detention at Pontville, Tasmania, without their parents, despite new Immigration Minister Tony Burke agreeing to release 18 of the boys more than a week ago.
The Tasmanian Asylum Seeker Support network said it would be difficult for the boys left behind, one of whom is just 11 years old, if there is a stall on further community placements.
“How and when children are released to a community placement, is not transparent, they don’t understand it, so it seems arbitrary,” said the spokeswoman.
Visitors to the centre report that boys then speculate that counselling for the effects of trauma may be a disadvantage or that a particular ethnicity may be an advantage to their case.
”We can try to squash rumours but have no answer for ‘why them, and not me? when other boys are released after a couple months and others stay several months,” said one visitor.
”All of the children in Pontville have travelled to Australia by themselves and are without parents or guardians. Some of the boys have reportedly been in detention in several centres for seven to nine months, while others are released after only a couple of months.”
A spokesman for the Department of Immigration said there are about 270 boys presently at Pontville but this number changes regularly subject to transfers out and in. The average time of detention at Pontville is about 45 days.
The department has deemed the centre an Alternative Place of Detention or APOD but advocates said the children are still are tightly supervised in regulated activities making ordinary social interactions difficult.
Fairfax Media has previously revealed that despite federal government pledges that no children should be held in detention, there are more children than ever before in closed centres around the country.
It was after a visit to the Pontville facility outside Hobart earlier this month that Mr Burke declared he also did not want any young person permanently held in detention.
He has approved the release of 18 young detainees, who will be released into the community with a spokesman for the Immigration Department saying that is underway and will be completed possibly by next week.