“Immigration Department figures* show there are currently more than 2,300 children detained within Australia’s immigration network… And now one of the government’s own panel of experts is adding his voice to demands children be freed from detention on PNG’s Manus Island immediately…

Spokeswoman Sophie Peer says…”I would like to say that there’s no such thing as a low-security centre. These children are locked up. Around 1,000 of that number are in locked facilities and then around 1,000 are in the community detention program. We can explain this clearly by an increase in the arrival of people seeking asylum to Australia, but we can also explain it by the expansion of the detention network. We’ve seen the government increase the places, increase the number of centres and frankly spending more money on locked facilities…

In addition, nearly a thousand live in so-called “alternative places of detention” – that is to say structures located near an adults-only centre… But according to Ms Peer, recreational and educational activities for children in these so-called alternative facilities remain a mirage… The Department of Immigration says Christmas Island has four alternative places of detention that accommodate nearly 400 children.

Former Christmas Island Shire President, Councillor Gordon Thomson, confirms children on the island are not free to play like other children. “Every night they go home, from school to the detention centre. They are not at liberty to do anything else…”

The Department hasn’t made any data available on families held on Manus Island, in Papua New Guinea.

Now one of the architects of the Federal Government’s asylum policy, Paris Aristotle, says the asylum processing centre on Manus Island should be shut down if the panel’s recommended safeguards cannot be put in place. Refugee expert Paris Aristotle says he is most concerned about arbitrary detention – particularly of children – and says something needs to be done “immediately”.

Paris Aristotle has told the ABC that while progress has been made on Nauru, the expert panel’s recommendations have not been implemented in Manus Island…

Sophie Peer says… “What we would like to see in the lead-up to the election is that children in detention is actually one point where we can have bipartisan agreement, where it is noted that it’s simply irresponsible, neglectful and actually a case of denying child rights to keep these children locked up.”

For full, original text visit: http://www.sbs.com.au/podcasts/Podcasts/radionews/episode/261408/New-pleas-on-behalf-of-detained-children