'They are afraid for their children'


Sir, Mothers in Darwin detention centers are growing increasingly despondent as Immigration Minister Scott Morrison’s cruel suite of policies take effect.  Darwin detention centers are increasingly being used as holding centers for pregnant women who, six weeks after they give birth in Royal Darwin Hospital, are removed back to Christmas Island and the threat of deportation.
Right: Born in detention, future unknown. Photo supplied. 
Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network (DASSAN) visitors are meeting asylum seeker mothers fearful of what this government is willing to do to them and their children. They do not know if they and their families may be deported by force in the middle of the night to Nauru or Manus Island. Mothers have heard of the reports of violence on Manus, the risk of malaria on Manus and substandard living conditions on Nauru – they are afraid for their children.
A women attempted suicide at Blaydin Point on 29 December 2013 and she remains in hospital. Parents tell us that the environment in detention is having a marked effect on their children and they fear that their children will not be able to recover from the trauma the Australian Government is inflicting upon them. Many of these women and children have husbands and fathers in the Australian community desperate to have their families live with them.
A number of families in Darwin with small children have been in detention for over a year and, despite falling outside of the cohort of people who can be sent to Nauru and Manus, have been given no indication when they may be released. Some families in other detention centres have spent a year and half in detention.
There are no maternal and child health nurses working inside detention for these women. Pregnant women report a lack of maternity clothing being issued by Serco. Some women report giving birth in the presence of Serco security guards who insist on remaining inside birthing rooms during labour. Women who suffer a miscarriage are simply placed back in detention without any regard for their mental health.
Darwin detention centers saw chronic levels of self-harm and suicide attempts in 2011 and 2012, including children. If children are not released from detention soon more children will be presenting at Darwin hospitals as a result of Minister Morrison’s policies. If there is no prospect of a person being sent to Nauru or Manus the Minister should act now and give, at least mothers and children, a chance of recovery and release them from the horror of detention.
Emma Murphy
Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network 


  1. I do not personally know any Australians who support the mistreatment of mothers and babies, and the stealing of the childhood of children in a detention prison. Do you?
    The Abbott Government does NOT have a mandate to be cruel to people.
    There would be outrage if animals were mistreated in Fair Australia. What Morrison and Co are doing – and making their public servants and contractors do – is disgusting and unconscionable .
    UNCONSCIONABLE was one of Minister Ruddock’s favourite words. It means “having no conscience; contrary to the dictates of conscience; not right or reasonable; unreasonably excessive.”

  2. Hopefully the women who are experiencing the brunt of the government’s detention policies will SMS or telephone their friends in their home countries and tell them not to fly to Indonesia, destroy their documents and get on boats to Australia.

  3. Let us hope that these stories get out to the people thinking that Australia is ‘refugee heaven’.

  4. Sorry, the Australian public voted on this very issue at the last election to make a firm stand.
    We have terrible conditions for our First Australians.
    I would love to be able to help every downtrodden person in the world, however perhaps it is time for some other countries to take some of these people or to house the people in who they accepted at their airports on tourism visas, full well knowing their intentions to deal with organised criminals on their illegal economic migration into Australia.
    Hopefully ABC will lose their bias and report some truths for a change, modifying their obvious electoral bias in this area.

  5. Peter, regarding your comment, “Perhaps it is time for some other countries to take some of these people”, the main destination countries for new asylum seekers in 2011-12 were, in order, South Africa, USA, Germany, France, Sweden, UK, Switzerland, Canada, Kenya, Malaysia. The numbers at the top of the scale dwarf the claims made in Australia: out of a total world-wide estimated at 928,200, 82,000 new claims in South Africa, 55,100 in France. These figures are for asylum seekers as distinct from refugees of whom there were an estimated 10.5m.
    There were 11,051 asylum seeker cases pending at the end of 2012 in Australia. This figure does not include boat arrivals, estimated at 9000-10,000, who were not able to lodge protection visa applications or had been transferred to other countries. In Kenya, 20,000 new claims were made.
    The major hosting countries for refugees at the end of 2012 were, in order, Pakistan (at total of 1.64 million, mostly Afghans), Islamic Republic of Iran (mostly Afghans), Germany (a total of 589,700), Kenya, Syrian Arab Republic (for refugees from Iraq), Ethiopia, Chad, Jordan, China and Turkey.
    My source is the United Nations High Commission for Refugees 2012 Statistical Yearbook.


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