More than 600 children are currently detained in Australian immigration facilities (459 on the Australian mainland and 144 on Christmas Island) and 186 children are currently detained on Nauru. 413 days is the current average length of detention in Australia for adults and children.
These figures are provided by the non-profitorganisation "We are better than this", that asks the Government to put an end to this form of institutional child abuse1. They have authored the following "humanifesto":
"Australia does not tolerate individuals who are cruel to kids.
Australia is no longer blind to institutional child abuse. We shine light deep into the dark corners of even the most venerated and powerful institutions.
And yet, Australia locks up innocent, traumatised children without trial; indefinitely, and under a tightly woven cloak of secrecy.
Our Government has created detention centres—deterrence camps—on Christmas Island, Nauru and on our own soil. There, the treatment of children is so inhumane and the conditions so appalling that leading Australian psychiatrists and paediatricians have been moved to speak out in a voice unprecedented in their profession.
These camps contravene international human rights conventions to which Australia is signatory.
We are better than this.
This will end because it must end and we will help it end.
There are better ways."
The organisation, which comprises artists, politicians, child protection workers and other experts, has realized a song which can be purchased online to raise funds and support their cause.
Jos Wienen, chairman of the committee of asylum of the Association of Dutch Municipalities (VNG), has recently declared that municipalities intend on organizing shelters for unsuccessful asylum seekers.
This decision came just after the European Committee of Social Rights ("ECSR") ruled on the Netherlands' failure to comply with its obligations in respect of asylum seekers and undocumented migrants.
In 2013, following a complaint submitted by the Conference of European Churches, the ECSR invited the Netherlands to take the following immediate measure, in accordance with Rule 36 (Rules of the Committee):
"Adopt all possible measures with a view to avoiding serious, irreparable injury to the integrity of persons at immediate risk of destitution, through the implementation of a co-ordinated approach at national and municipal levels with a view to ensuring that their basic needs (shelter, clothes and food) are met; (...)".
In an article published in July 2014, the NGO Human Rights Watch described how unsuccessful asylum seekers, mostly from the African continent, lived in an abandoned multi-story indoor parking, the "refugee garage", in the outskirts of Amsterdam. These people, who obviously could not return to their countries of origin, were living in appalling conditions.
Forced destitution, this situation where failed asylum seekers are "forced to survive far below the poverty line", is widespread in Europe and does not only concern unsuccessful asylum seekers.
Posted by Flavie Fuentes
The report, entitled "The use of detention and alternatives to detention in the context of immigration policies" was prepared on the basis of National Contributions from 26 European Migration Networks National Contact Points.
According to the report, the most common grounds for detention are "risk of absconding"; "establishing identity of the third-country national" followed by "threat to national security and public order"; "non compliance with the alternatives to detention"; "presenting destroyed or forged documents" and "reasonable grounds to believe that the person will commit an offence".
The use of immigration detention facilities is a common practice across all Member States, with the exception of Ireland where third-country nationals are detained in prisons.
Concerning the detention of vulnerable people, including unaccompanied minors, accompanied minors and families with children, pregnant women and victims of trafficking in human beings and torture, it is either explicitly prohibited or possible only in exceptional circumstances in the vast majority of Member States.
As for the alternatives to detention, 24 out of the 26 Member States have developed alternatives such as: reporting obligations; residence requirements; the obligation to surrender identity or a travel document; release on bail; electronic monitoring; provision of a guarantor; and release to a care worker and under a care plan. However, community management programmes, which enable immigrants to live independently in the community under the supervision and care of a case manager, are not available in any of the 26 Member States participating in the study.
All Member States provide access to free legal advice to persons accommodated in detention facilities, except in Hungary where legal aid is reported to be at the detainee's expense. Legal advice is partially free in Luxembourg and Germany. Moreover, in Estonia and Malta, legal advice is provided solely for the purposes of an appeal against the return decision.
Available statistics collected for the period 2009-2013 show that the total of third-country nationals in detention has decreased by some 5% per annum. These figures are based on statistics provided by 24 Member States.
Moreover, in 2013, France, Austria, Belgium and Sweden were the countries where the largest number of third-country nationals were provided with an alternative to detention.
The average length of detention in 2013 for 17 out of the 26 Member States participating in the study was around 40 days. The highest average detention period in 2013 was recorded in Malta (180 days) while the lowest average number of days was observed in Sweden (5 days).
The report draws the following conclusions:
- The impact of detention and alternatives to detention on the ability of states to reach and execute prompt and fair return decisions “may be rather insignificant".
- Placing persons in an alternative to detention is less costly than placing them in a detention centre;
- The fundamental rights of persons in detention are at greater risk than they are for persons placed in alternatives to detention; and
- The risk of absconding could be greater in case of alternatives to detention, while as a whole this risk is very low or non-existent in the case of detention.
Posted by Flavie Fuentes