Australia-held asylum children freed

Refugee activists protest in Brisbane against detention camps, 2 MarchImage copyright

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Refugee activists protest in Brisbane against detention camps

The Australian government says the last remaining asylum-seeking children being held in mainland detention centres have been freed.

However, dozens are still being held in centres on the Pacific island of Nauru.

Those on the mainland will now be able to move more freely in community detention as their claims are processed.

Australia’s tough immigration policy turns back seaborne migrants or puts them in offshore camps.

Officials in Australia say the last group of children ranged from a baby to a 17-year-old. They were brought from Nauru because family members needed medical treatment.

However, their asylum claims will still be checked and they will be deported if they fail.

Doctors and activists have pressed the government to release all the children, citing health grounds including mental problems.

The number of asylum-seeking children hit a record high of 2,000 in June 2013 and Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said the latest releases represented a “significant achievement”.

However, some 1,700 adult asylum seekers remain in detention on the mainland.

The average time they are held is now at a record high of 464 days, immigration figures show.

Australia and asylum

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The island nation of Nauru holds migrants while Australia processes their asylum claims

  • The number of asylum seekers travelling to Australia by boat rose sharply in 2012 and early 2013. Scores of people died making the journey
  • To stop the influx, the government adopted tough measures intended as a deterrent
  • Everyone who arrives is detained. Under the policy, asylum seekers are processed offshore at centres such as Nauru
  • The government has also adopted a policy of tow-backs, or turning boats around

Why is Australia’s asylum policy controversial?

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