23 January 2012

Australian immigration authorities 'neglected' detained teenager

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A Federal Court in Australia has been told by the lawyers of a 17 year old Kuwaiti asylum seeker that the Australian immigration system neglected him as he repeatedly self harmed himself, including trying to hang himself and sewing his own mouth shut.

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An Adelaide court was told that the Australian immigration authorities had 'failed' the Kuwaiti national.

Claire O'Connor, representing the boy who cannot be named because of his age, said that Australian immigration authorities did not provide him with adequate psychological treatment and that he should be released into the community.

The Kuwaiti national is now detained at the Adelaide Immigration Transit Accommodation Centre after having spent time in detention facilities on Christmas Island as well as in Melbourne and Darwin since his arrival in 2010.

During that time the boy has repeatedly harmed himself throughout his detention, cutting his arms, banging his head against walls and sewing his lips together; in 2011 he tried to hang himself with a bed sheet.

Ms O'Connor claimed the boy had had a drug habit in his native Kuwait but has since abstained from all drugs since his arrival in Australia.

He had lodged a successful refugee application and was informed in April 2011 that he met the requirements to be granted a protection visa. However, before he could be given the Australian visa, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation gave him an 'adverse security check', the first given to a child, which blocked the application.

Ms O'Connor has said the Australian government had overlooked their duty of care to the boy and that after the authorities were informed of the boy's record of self harm, there was "very little, if no, appropriate treatment provided or change to an appropriate living environment".

"He is still a child whose serious attempt to take his life was the inevitable result of a failure by the [Commonwealth] to provide adequate services in keeping him in an environment where he was going to be less vulnerable."

As the boy has been recognised as a refugee he cannot legally be returned to Kuwait. Asylum seekers who have been denied a visa would typically be moved to a third country but, due to the boy's adverse security assessment, that makes this possibility less likely, meaning the boy faces indefinite detention.

The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people lodge applications with the Australian High Commission.

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