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Australia breached rights of 9-year-old girl

12 september 2012, 14:26
0
Catherine Branson. Photo courtesy of 123people.com
Catherine Branson. Photo courtesy of 123people.com
Australia's human rights body Wednesday found the government breached the rights of a nine-year-old girl it detained for more than nine months, during which time she witnessed others self-harming, AFP reports.

The Australian Human Rights Commission's former president Catherine Branson said the Immigration Department should pay Judy Tuifangaloka Aus$250,000 (US$261,775) in compensation.

The young girl, her mother and five siblings were taken into detention on October 19, 2004 after their father was deported to Tonga and the rest of the family's visas to remain in Australia were cancelled.

They were held in Sydney's Villawood Immigration Detention Centre until 28 July 2005.

"During this time Miss Tuifangaloka witnessed acts of self-harm by other detainees," the commission said in a statement.

"The department also concedes that there was a problem with rats in the complex."

Tuifangaloka told the commission she witnessed 7 to 10 men "who had cut their hands and laid down on the ground when news helicopters flew on top of us".

In another instance, a man drank "a liquid which was not for drinking" that her mother later told her was bleach.

Branson found that the cancellation of the family's visas were unlawful and arbitrary. In her finding, she said that the life of Tuifangaloka -- who was born in Australia but did not attain citizenship until her tenth birthday -- and her family was arbitrarily disrupted.

Her inquiry also concluded that she was denied the right to liberty and the right to have her best interests as the primary consideration.

The immigration department, which has conceded that Tuifangaloka's father's removal was unlawful because he held a valid visa, has formally apologised to the girl and is pursuing options for compensation.

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