Bid to free detainee, aged 11

Written By miftah nugraha on Selasa, 09 Juli 2013 | 19.55

REFUGEE advocate Greg Barns has called for the urgent release of an 11-year-old boy from the Pontville detention centre.

The Australian Lawyers Alliance director demanded the child be removed from the "shameful jail for kids" into community care before the boy suffered "irreversible psychological harm".

The revelation that children so young are behind the centre's cyclone fences comes days after Immigration Minister Tony Burke signed off on the release of 18 young men and prepares to release a further 18.

"I have actually met with this boy during my visit to Pontville last week," Mr Burke told reporters this morning.

"The situation here is one where in the ordinary course someone who is 11 years old, regardless of how long he's been in detention, I would have put him right to the front of availability for community places and that was my first instinct.

"The challenge here is he's with two cousins and to find community detention for three people takes longer than to find it for one, and I'm reluctant to break up that family group."

Mr Barns, who was recently appointed to a Tasmanian government committee on reforming child protection laws, said to continue to keep the child or any other child in detention not only endangered their wellbeing but was in breach of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child.

"It's great that … Tony Burke has just signed off of on the release of 18 young asylum seekers from Pontville, but what about the remaining 400 or so being held throughout Australia -- 300 or so of whom are still in this state?" he said.

The ALA says recent incidents of youths acting out in frustration at the Pontville centre would continue until all children were safely rehoused in the community.

Mr Barns, who is a columnist for the Mercury and campaign director for the Wikileaks party, called on Tasmanian Premier Lara Giddings to intervene personally to end the detention of vulnerable young people at Pontville.

"Ms Giddings should tell the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Mr Burke that her Government will work the Commonwealth to immediately close this shameful 'jail for kids'," he said.

The ALA says the Commonwealth has a duty of care when people arrive on Australian shores to protect their mental and physical wellbeing.

"This is even more crucial when we are talking about impressionable youth," Mr Barns said.

"The (Federal) Government has already opened itself up to more than $25 million in compensation because of its treatment of asylum seekers."

Mr Burke said the boy and his cousins were staying in a separate area to other detainees.

"I'm not pretending it's what we would want as permanent accommodation, but right now I want to wait until we can get a community place so that we can move all three people together.

"I think that's a better outcome than separating the 11-year-old from the only relatives that he currently has."

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