September 26, 2013
The case of the 16-year-old Somali boy found hanging in a bathroom on Christmas Island last month has sparked two government inquiries and prompted refugee rights campaigners to try to intervene. Picture: Colin Murty Source: Herald Sun
REFUGEE advocates are pleading with the federal government not to send a mentally ill Somali boy to Nauru or Manus Island, as speculation builds the Coalition may have secretly flown children to foreign detention compounds without parents or guardians.
The case of the 16-year-old Somali boy found hanging in a bathroom on Christmas Island last month has sparked two government inquiries and prompted refugee rights campaigners to try to intervene.
They fear the boy, who spent almost a month in Perth hospitals after he was cut down in a medical emergency on August 25, may be flown offshore as part of the Papua New Guinea Solution, which was started by Kevin Rudd and continued by the Coalition.
He was among a group of unaccompanied minors held in detention on Christmas Island.
Those asylum-seekers are considered especially vulnerable because they came by boat without a parent or guardian.
In legal terms, the Immigration Minister, Scott Morrison, is their guardian.
The policy of both the former Labor government and the Coalition was to send all groups of people offshore, including families and unaccompanied minors, so as not to create an incentive for some people to travel.
When the Coalition’s Operation Sovereign Borders began last week, accompanied by a media blackout, no unaccompanied minors had been sent to Nauru or Manus Island.
But yesterday on Nauru, resident Clint Deidenang claimed to have seen what appeared to be unaccompanied minors getting off a plane from Christmas Island and on to a bus for detention.
“There were kids with their parents all together in little groups but there was also teenagers walking alone, one by one,” he said. “They seemed to be unaccompanied minors.”
One refugee advocate told The Australian that unaccompanied minors on Christmas Island were visited on Tuesday night by immigration officials who told them to prepare for transfer to Nauru “within 40 hours”.
Refugee Council of Australia board member Judyth Watson said it was wrong for any immigration minister to be the nominated guardian for unaccompanied minors. “Scott Morrison is the children’s jailer as well as their guardian, it’s a hopeless conflict,” she said.
Dr Watson said the sad story of the troubled Somali boy deeply concerned her.
“He is so vulnerable, he is alone and he needs advocates,” she said.
Mr Morrison’s office did not respond when The Australian asked him to confirm whether the first unaccompanied minors had arrived in Nauru yesterday.
On Christmas Island, administrator Jon Stanhope has praised hospital staff for their actions during the emergency involving the boy and said they saved his life.
The island’s hospital staff frequently treat detainees and, across many years, have dealt with traumatised asylum-seekers.
“As a consequence of this unfortunate event there will, as a matter of routine, be a full inquiry conducted by (the Department of Immigration and Border Protection) and the (Indian Ocean Territories Health Service) into all aspects of the circumstances of the attempted suicide,” Mr Stanhope said in a newsletter.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING: LAUREN WILSON