Child seeking asylum awarded a government payout over trauma experienced in detention

christmas island detention centre for people seeking asylum and refugees

Holding people in detention for immigration and asylum purposes is an inhumane breach of fundamental human rights

JRS Australia welcomes the settlement deal awarded by the immigration department to a nine-year-old-girl who was held in detention on Christmas Island.

Arriving in Australia at five years of age, the girl known as A.S. was sent to Christmas Island detention centre along with her pregnant mother and father.

A.S. suffered both physically and mentally as a result of being held in detention as well as being separated from her pregnant mother while she received medical care. At this time, A.S is believed to have remained in detention with her father.

A.S. was diagnosed with recurrent dental abscesses and allergic reactions as well as post-traumatic stress disorder, major depression with anxiety, separation anxiety, stuttering and bed-wetting.

“Holding people in detention for immigration and asylum purposes is an inhumane breach of fundamental human rights,” said JRS Australia director, Carolina Gottardo. “This breach is even more clear when children are affected by detention, as clearly shown in this case. There can be no justification for the horrific and long-lasting effects detention had on this nine-year-old girl.”

A.S.’s attorney argued that the minister for immigration, the Australian government and Serco had failed in their duty of care. They failed to ensure A.S was attending school, they did not prevent detention causing or exacerbating injury to her and most crucially, as A.S. is a minor, they failed to use detention only as a last resort.

All parties involved disputed these allegations.

While the case was originally part of a class action regarding the negligent treatment of people seeking asylum at the Christmas Island detention centre, A.S.’s case was scheduled for a six-week individual trial after it was ruled the class action cases lacked commonality. However, on the grounds that the amount of the settlement be kept confidential, the immigration department offered a settlement to A.S. out of court.

Although the pursuit of justice was re-traumatising for A.S. it is believed she and her family are content with the results. The family are currently living in the community on bridging visas.

While the outcome of A.S.’ case is promising for future cases, JRS do not forget the other 35,000 people believed to be involved in the original class action who will now have to pursue their claim individually. Not only have these people had to flee their homes for their safety but rather than finding refuge in Australia, are forced to endure appalling treatment in detention.

“Immigration related detention violates the rights of those detained and is even more impossible to justify in cases involving children,” Ms Gottardo said. “Detention centres should be abolished and people trying to escape from persecution or secure better lives should not be punished. They should be treated with the dignity and respect that they deserve as human beings.”

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