Locking up Indonesian children in adult Australian jails: Mandatory detention claims more victims

Mandatory detention is claiming more victims than most Australians realise, it is not just the six and half thousand folk seeking Asylum, having fled war and devastation and the direst of circumstances and are now incarcerated in Australia's mandatory detention network - 24 concentration-like facilities on our soil - we are also incarcerating the poorest of folk and youth from Indonesia in our gaols.
Mandatory Detention in Australia is victimising in indefinite and indiscriminate incarceration over 1,000 children, as the Commonwealth's promises of their release into 'community detention' meander almost to a near grinding halt. Once again we have more children suffering as the Commonwealth, and our bastions of 'democracy and justice', disregard the fact that Australia is a party to the Convention of the Rights of the Child. We have children in Australian Adult prisons in the form of poor Indonesian village children who have crewed ships carrying asylum seekers to Australia. As young as 14, and this has been ascertained, and maybe even 13, however there are scores 14, 15, 16, 17 in our jails, languishing.

Related:Human Rights Alliance article on Indymedia -- Interview with journalist Lindsay Murdoch on Perth Radio -- Australia imprisons Indonesian boys: The Age -- Gerry Geratos speaking on the ABC The Drum (26 minutes into program)

The plight of these children, and the extensiveness of this unbelievable problem in Australia, a country that chooses to publically assess and harshly judge the perceived human rights abuses of other countries, are duly highlighted, and graphically so, by the three Indonesian children who are currently being held in Brisbane’s Arthur Gorrie jail while another teenager is being held in Perth’s Hakea jail. There are at least 60 Indonesians who claim to be minors now being held in Australian jails. This statistic has been affirmed by the Australian Federal Police to Australian journalists who are now investigatively reporting a problem that has stained the Australian landscape for several years, however now it is coming to the light of day, and with the pressure from mainstream press investigative journalists who have built a case of the facts from human rights advocates and activists supported by the freedom of various Independent Press, including Indymedia, the wheels of justice, though they often appear to grind to a halt, seem to be moving again, if ever so slowly. All these children face a mandatory five year jail sentence under Federal “people smuggling” laws if found guilty. So far there are over 150 of the poorest of Indonesia's youth convicted by our criminal justice system as 'people smugglers' for perceived crimes such as 'cooking' on board a boat, or for assisting as 'deckhand' while our Asylum Seekers sought safe passage to our shores. The moral and legal question is whether in the first place these poorest of Indonesian folk should have been charged and hence mandatorily lumped with a five year sentence. In terms of the fact that Australia is party to various Conventions such as the Conventions recognising the Status of Refugees and Displaced Peoples, and Conventions recognising International Maritime Laws, and Civil and Political Rights well hence the seeking of Asylum is a law and hence anyone assisting them from a humanitarian perspective and in line with the various United Nations Conventions, and in line with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is aiding our Asylum Seekers, not per se 'smuggling' them. Why would anyone 'charge' people nourishing and ensuring the safe passage of Asylum Seekers with a 'criminal act'. Why would we have three Indonesian children languishing in custody in a Brisbane prison?

The three children in Brisbane have now been in custody for over 14 months. The Australian Federal Police stands condemned for its cruel role in this scandal for relying on dodgy x-ray tests, for ignoring the advice from the Immigration Department that they were holding minors and perhaps most cruelly, making no attempt to contact the children’s families in Indonesia who thought they were dead. These children are not criminals but merely crew on ships. In addition, logically, and legally, people assisting Asylum Seekers who are granted refugee visas, and once again, as it can never be reiterated enough, therefore recognised as fleeing UN Convention prescribed persecution and insecurities, are providing humanitarian aide and service and have broken no law. There shall come a time when the legal fraternity shall rise in greater numbers to argue the impropriety of charging these youth, whether on either side of 18 years of age, for a crime that may have no just legal standing, that is not a crime in the for instance. Our social commentators are slowly beginning to question the propriety of such charges and whether they are appropriate, and they too are almost snail like and piecemeal in their rise, however in time the majority of legal practitioners and social and political commentators will revisit this scandal and condemn it.

The three boys in Brisbane’s Arthur Gorrie jail
The three children being held in Brisbane are 15-year-old Ose Lani and 16-year-olds John Ndollu and Ako Lani. The three have been in custody for the past fourteen months detained since their landing on Ashmore reef. The boys are from a poor fishing village in West Timor on Roti Island. They were held in a detention centre in Darwin until January of this year when they were taken while in manacles to a Brisbane jail. Earlier this month a judge dismissed an application against their rights ruling that it is is acceptable for the Federal Government to hold people for as long as necessary before deciding whether to charge them. This is unbelievable and hence why Australia should be calling loud and clear for a Human Rights Act or Charter with well defined articles on the rights of its citizens and of all people who are presented before our Courts. We must never believe, as clearly the evidences mounts and demonstrates, that people should be at the sheer discretion and judgment of others no matter how learned those with the power to judge and deem.

The boys were allegedly tricked into crewing the ships, being offered up to $500 to be a member of the crew. They allege they are yet to receive such payments nor were these payments directed to their impoverished families in lieu of their allegedly unexpected arrests and in lieu of the fact, that like 150 impoverished Indonesian youth before them, they will do five year mandatorily. When on the ships they acted as cooks and deck hands and they were unaware of the full nature of the voyage. The following quote about the state of the Ako is from WA Today

Shivering with cold, Ako Lani, a 16-year-old orphan, convulsed in tears and could not speak when his lawyers asked him in Brisbane's high security Arthur Gorrie jail on May 30 whether he was being mistreated by prisoners.

The Australian Federal Police in all of this time has made no attempt to contact the boys families who believed that had all drowned. The AFP justified this appalling act of inhumanity when asked by the Human Right’s Alliance’s Gerry Georgatos that they did not need to as Australia does not have treaty obligations to do so with Indonesia. Apparently, Indonesian Consular officials are not notified by the AFP or Australian authorities when their nationals appear on our shores, or at least they have not been notified in terms of the 150 plus Indonesian youth who have landed at Christmas Island, Ashmore Reef and who languish in Immigration Detention and in our Adult prisons, and despite that more than sixty of them, to our knowledge, have disputed their age, that is that they under 18 years of age. Despite this, the Indonesian Government is apparently unhappy at the treatment of its citizens and the lack of communication from Australia. Indonesian Consular Officials have told Gerry Georgatos that they were frustrated with the fact that they were not being informed of the presence of their nationals and on one occasion when speaking to an Australian Official they described to him that this discourtesy could lead to a Diplomatic Incident between the neighbouring countries. However at this time the Indonesian Consular Officials have forged a path towards discussions with Australian officials, which include the AFP, the Commonwealth Department of Public Prosecutions, the Immigration Department in remedying this ridiculous and outrageous situation.

The Australian Federal Police has also ignored advice given to it as far back as October from the Immigration Department that the three were in fact children, instead choosing to rely on unreliable wrist x-ray technology. Radiologists have confirmed that this method of testing is not failsafe and clearly so as children have been discovered in our prisons, aged through these tests and who the Courts have had it proven to them that they were children. In one case a 14 year old spent 12 months incarcerated in an Australian Adult prison till his birth certificate was provided and hence the Magistrate accepted his age, ordered his release and had him deported home to Indonesia. The technology dates back to the 1930’s and the technology is not seen as reliable by either the Australian Immigration Department or the UNHCR. It has now be slammed by a world expert as innacurate and potentially unlawful. The AFP has also ignored the fact that birth certificates extracts have now been obtained by the children’s lawyers confirming that Ose Lani is 15 and John Ndollu is 16. A birth certificate showing Ako Lani is 16 is being sent from Indonesia. This is not rocket science, so why, why indeed, are our AFP ignoring the realities? Why indeed is the Commonwealth not intervening to remedy the madness?

The AFP has taken on a pivotal role in the implementation of the oppressive regime of mandatory detention which has also seen it violently suppressing asylum seeker protests on Christmas Island with synthetic bullets and chemical weapons such as tear gas and concussion grenades. Gerry Georgatos, a PhD researcher in Australian Deaths in Custody, has described that the Australian Federal Police are victims of their own self destructive zero tolerance policies and protocols and it is this heavy handedness that exacerbates and in fact creates and perpetuates situations such as the perceived riots and protests in Australia's many various detention centres. These protocols are pervasive and if one layer of the management systems of detention centres have them then like a metastasis all management layers have to undertake them such as the Department of Immigration and Citizenship and most certainly such as SERCO, the private company operator of the 24 detention centres in Australia. Let us remember those who have died in Australian Immigration Detention, those who have committed suicide, for they are Deaths in Custody - and for every death in custody, there are scores who suffer, who are breaking, broken, one clinical disorder after another. Let us remind ourselves that over 1,000 children still remain in Mandatory Detention. And now we have children in Australian Adult Prisons - Australia is in a dark period of its unfolding history, a very shameful period of human rights abuses and the outright discrimination of people.

Update On June 16th the three boys have been released on bail pending an age hearing

16 year old held in Perth
Human Rights Alliance spokesperson Gerry Georgatos has also brought to light the plight of a 16 year old now being held in Perth’s Hakea Correctional Prison and this youth is working alongside convicted sex offenders in the Laundry. Those working in the Laundry are under paid, exploited - a practice that was raised in Parliament through State Labor MP John Hyde who tabled a report by the Inspector of WA Custodial Services Neil Morgan, and assurances were returned that this practice of exploitation would cease. Well it has not and this youth is earning $30 a week, which to him may seem an incredible amount considering the improverished background he comes from.

'When I visited him in jail, the boy's last words to me were 'I'm scared in here','' Mr Georgatos said. Mr Georgatos said the boy in Hakea Prison wants to go home to his mother who is looking after her family after the death of her husband died when the boy was young.

"The fact I have contacted every authority from the prison itself, the Department of Corrective Services, the Attorney-General, the relevant Ministers, DIAC, the AFP, the Commonwealth, the Indonesian Consulate, the media, everyone you can imagine, the Inspector of Custodial Services and that fact that after three months of efforts and dissemination that he continues to languish in an Adult Prison as the wheels of justice appear at times to have come to a grind is sickly disgusting, and indicative of gutless passing the buck, discrimination, racism and the demonstration of a lack of an ethos of caring." said Gerry Georgatos

More information on the boy in Perth:
Boy in adult jail says he's scared
Jailing of boys an abuse of rights:WA Today
a href="http://www.abc.net.au/news/video/2011/06/20/3248804.htm">Gerry Geratos speaking on the ABC The Drum (26 minutes into program)
Family insists that 'people smuggler' in jail is a boy

Virulent racism
Unfortunately these boys are victims of the hysterical racist campaign waged against asylum seekers in this country by both the ALP and the Liberal/National Party for the last twenty years. Since the ALP's implementing of mandatory detention in 1992 a premise has been created to divide, vilify and brutalise people and for Australians to accept this layer of racism as part and parcel of everyday living. A sad example of how the hearts of many Australians have been hardened during these times is an online poll on the issue of these boys currently running in the Fairfax press. The poll asked “Should Indonesians who manned asylum boats, who claim to be under 18, be freed immediately?” Sadly only a bare minority of 57% voted yes to this question with over 5000 votes counted. Presumably the other 43% are happy to see poor Indonesian children rot in Australian adult jails to keep our borders “safe”! However if the question was inverted to "Should Australian children who were on boats to Indonesia, who claim to be under 18, be freed immediately?" The response would be closer to 100% and we'd have a diplomatic incident while our mainstream media would be having a field day with this!

Let us respect our obligations in terms of the Convention of the Rights of the Child. Let us rise in calls for justice, for freedom, for commonsense, and let us realise that we are all people and that we should care about one another.

Free the Indonesian children!
End Mandatory Detention and Close the camps!
Refugees and those who help them are not criminals!

Independent Media
Human Rights Alliance article on Indymedia

Background articles from Mainstream press
Australia imprisons Indonesian boys: The Age
Jailing of boys an abuse of rights: The Age
Tricked boys languish in adult prison: WA Today
Interview with journalist Lindsay Murdoch on Perth Radio
Ross Taylor opinion piece from Easter

Response of Indonesian Government
Australia violates convention detaining children:Jakarta Post
Government probes Australia’s jailing of teens



It is an appalling situation when Consulates are not able to work together expeditiously to ensure propriety. It has now unfolded that the one youth, who is now 16, and barely 15 at the time he landed, as a cook on board the board seeking Asylum for its passengers, at Ashmore is the age he has claimed. It was guaranteed that he would have been condemned to five years, mandatory, in and Australia gaol, where for the time being he continues to languish!, however in 2009 he was in the equivalent of Year 9 at school, and fourteen at the time, fifteen when he landed at Ashmore last year, and sixteen (in March) while currently in gaol, after having been arrested before his sixteenth birthday in February.

How is it that journalists, some lawyers who can pull up the extra yards, and people like myself can make the phone calls to Indonesia, to their family, can talk to Consular Officials, can just do this basic stuff and get the information and yet our so-called auhorities, the bastions of justice and democracy, cannot? Why?

You would think the fact someone is in school would be adequate evidence beyond a reasonable doubt to affirm ones age? You'd think the Courts would release the person?

The whole is beyond appalling, and yet though the case builds up against these dodgy age determination practices of lone wrist bone age scans and the case builds up to release the thereabouts 60 children languishing in Australian Adult Prisons the fact is they are still languishing in our prisons as others who could move things along are dragged their heels, the cogs of justice turn ever so slowly and well at times it appears as if not at all...

Gerry Georgatos

WTF(friggin) heck is going on in this country, in the whole damn world. Don't people care enough to stop this wtf stuff? Flowerpower it is awesome you write this up for us to read to learn the wtf truth of this country. How the friggin hell can we have children in our jails where murders and violent offenders loom around young kids?

I am embarrased and ashamed to be from Oz while all this evil is happenign. There are no excuses it 's not like we can discuss this one liek the rights of refugees who come by boat and whether they should be in detention. They shouldn't but heck at least I can see why some people argue for some detention but how can our pollies and authorities allow for this shit with kids in jail to be happening.

I've been reading a lot of Gerry's posts he writes damn straight and to the point and challenges these bastards and I take my hat off to the man for standing up for people and facing off with the pollies and authorities. Those pollies, wtf, should bugger off and we get characters like Gerry Georgatos into politicss, it's Joes like Gerry who should Prime Minister and then some of this madness would end. it must be real tough for a fella like Gerry to see what he sees and to know what to do and to see everyone around tip toe. It must be frustrating... wtf I can't get over this.

Keep up the writing and theposts, I read them.

We have to spread the rage to get the media and pollies to stand up. I still can't believe this is my Oz.

Shame on teh government. Shame, shame, shame, shame, shame, shame, shame, shame, shame, shame, shame.



16 year old in WA Prison. 60 Minors in Australian Adult Prisons. The authorities know. We have been calling for their release for months.http://www.watoday.com.au/national/jailing-of-boys-an-abuse-of-rights-20...


On March 18 Gerry Georgatos after having met with a 16 year old Indonesian youth (who turned 16 the day before on March 17) in HAKEA Prison immediately informed HAKEA Prison authorities that they had within their Prison someone allegedly 16.

Rather than remedy the predicament and ascertain the youth's age Deparment of Corrective Services' Security blocked Gerry Georgatos' official and unofficial visits to the Prison! Superintendents overturned these 'blocks' only for Security to reinstate them (without submitting grounds). On April 6 Gerry's prisoner visitation rights were reinstated (on the same day an article in The West Australian appeared). Gerry Georgatos had been visiting WA Prisons for six years, had met Superintendents, enjoyed 'muster' with Prison staff and authorities and at the invitation of Prison Chaplains presented educational opportunities to prisoners.

Gerry Georgatos informed the Indonesian Consulate (Canberra and Perth) and the Perth Vice Consul has confirmed that the youth's impoverished family in Indonesia have affirmed the youth was born in 1995 and not as the AFP claim through the non-failsafe wrist bone scan that his year of birth is 1991!

Gerry Georgatos first met the youth in the Perth Detention Centre in January 2011. The youth arrived on a boat from Indonesia, allegedly as a cook, carrying 30 Asylum Seekers, and which was met by the RAN at Ashmore Reef in April. He spent 10 months predominately in Darwin however also at Christmas Island. In Perth he was treated for Tuberculosis.

Gerry Georgatos contacted the youth's family in Indonesia (Batam) to personally affirm his year of birth. Family confirmed that indeed this youth was born in March, 1995 and that indeed in 2009 he graduated from Junior High which is the equivalent of Year 9, and therefore would have been about 14, which he was in 2009. Gerry was able to easily acquire meticulous details of the school he attended, about the family and about circumstances relating to the youth.

His family did not know what had happened to him nor that he had been coerced onto a boat for Australia. While in Immigration Detention the Indonesian Consulate was not contacted nor was any contact or any urge for contact with his family in Indonesia made or considered.

Only since his arrest in February 2011 by the AFP has he been able to contact his family.

Why is it that Gerry Georgatos, and a leading journalist, are able to contact his family, confirm his age, discover that he was a 'Year 9' student in 2009 and our relevant authorities did not? These authorities include the AFP, the DIAC and the Commonwealth Prosecutors and Legal Aid sponsored lawyers who act for some of the minors in question? Why? In the first instance it was merely picking up the phone to Indonesian Consulate and then to the family in Indonesia.

Gerry Georgatos has informed every relevant authority including the Office of the Inspector of Custodial Services, Department of Corrective Services, DIAC, AFP, Police and Corrective Services Ministers, the Attorney-General, the Law Society, the Australian Alliance of Lawyers and finally the media.

The Office of the Inspector of Custodial Services WA agrees with Gerry and is appalled by the fact that this youth remains in HAKEA and is filing recommendations to the State Minister of Corrective Services.

The Australian Lawyers Alliance agrees that it is an outrage that minors are in custody or serving five year sentences.

In Brisbane, three Indonesian youths, after being detained in an Adult Prison for 14 months have been released on bail pending age-determination inquiries. All youths in questions throughout Australia must be immediately released.

We have been campaigning for months for the AFP and the Government to undertake appropriate age-determination practices and to immediately disgregard the wrist-bone age scan which has already been proven to not be failsafe. We have been urging all the relevant authorities to contact Indonesian Consular Officials when their nationals, such as these youth, present themselves in Australia. Australia is contravening the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other various human rights conventions and laws we are party to.

If Australian children were incarcerated in foreign prisons Australia would be indignant and it would be a diplomatic and international incident. We would not accept our children in adult jails how can we allow for this discrimination and racism in ours?

Gerry Georgatos who visits prisoners to encourage alternate pathway programs and education incidentally met a score of Indonesian prisoners (in Hakea, in 2010) who appeared quite young and who were sentenced to five years (to be served in Albany Prison) however at that time he considered that the Commonwealth would have ascertained their date of birth. Gerry is positive that some of the Indonesians he met in Hakea last year are most probably minors. The AFP has conceded there at least 60 to 70 youth in question whose age is disputed. They must be immediately released into appropriate jurisdictions or bail till as such time as their date of birth are ascertained.

The Human Rights Alliance once again calls upon the Commonwealth that it should undertake onus for asertaining age beyond a reasonable doubt.

What has occurred, with our Adult Prisons detaining and imprisoning 14, 15, 16, 17 years old, and with the Commonwealth and the responsible Ministries, and other authorities, aware of this over an extraordinarily long period of time is an inexcusable indictment of the worst discrimination, racism, prejudices and bigotry returning to the Australian political landscape.

We ask of our media to highlight the plight of the youth in question at HAKEA Prison, to urge for his release from this Adult Prison, and to urge for ALL youth in question to be released and for age determination practices, underwritten by legal and moral propriety, to be implemented.

We ask of our media to bring to account the Government and all authorities who knowingly allowed for this horrific predicament to occur and to stain the Australian landscape with human rights abuses of the worst form - and against vulnerable impoverished youth devoid of the full suite of rights others enjoy.


Working towards a Better Future

We acknowledge and respect the traditional custodians whose ancestral lands we are now part of. We acknowledge and remember the horrific atrocities inflicted upon them. This is and will forever be their land.

CONTACT: 0430 657 309

We should introduce the death penalty for then like Indonesia do to Australians

Gerry Georgatos is amazing. His amazing taking up the cause for the victims of injustice, for these young kids is awesome and Gerry is who we should get into parliament. The man is awesome.

His presence on DRUM was incredible and his way of speaking is refreshing and full of knowledge, the man is insights galore. He tore through the questions. He has the integrity that our politicians should wish for.

You are a great man Gerry. May you be blessed for all you do. Sally.

In West Australia Gerry Georgatos has stood tall in his tenacity to free a 15 year old boy, Hadi, from prison. In the last couple of weeks the story has broken and Gerry has fought the good fight, if it was not for him justice would not be done, a young boy would not be freed. It is not politicians or governments we can hope for justice from, not from even the big human rights organisations, it is from individuals such as Gerry Georgatos. We cannot believe in our democracy when it takes an individual to do the job that governments and politicians should have done.


Too right!

How can an entire country be apathetic to the needs of these young prisoners? This is inhuman and putting already scared teens into an adult facility is going to scar them for life.

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