Australia to free some detained asylum-seeking children

A number of asylum-seeking children held in Australian mainland immigration detention centres are to be released, officials said Tuesday, although hundreds of others will remain locked up in offshore camps. Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said “a large number” of the children and their families will be given bridging visas, which will allow them to live in the community, attend school and have access to health and financial support. The programme only applies to children being held in community detention or in mainland detention centres, and who arrived in the country before July 19, 2013.

We are confident that we can move a large number of them off community detention into the bridging visa programme.

Scott Morrison, Australian immigration minister

Children under the age of 10 and their families will be given priority. A total of 1,547 children are in community detention, according to Immigration Department figures. At least a further 150 in mainland detention centres will be considered for release. Children who arrived by boat in Australia after July 19, 2013, are excluded from the programme under Canberra’s tough immigration policy, which prevents them being resettled in the country regardless of whether they are judged to be genuine refugees.

There’s just no excuse for locking up children, and to say we’re going to lock up children and be cruel to them as a deterrent to others is an unacceptable way to behave.

Christine Milne, Greens leader