SYDNEY (AFP) – Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Thursday savaged a Human Rights Commission report into the struggles of asylum-seeker children held in detention as “blatantly partisan” and said he had no guilt “whatsoever”.
In a damning report to parliament, the government-funded commission said its 10-month investigation of 11 detention centres found widespread sexual assault, self-harm and severe mental disorders among children locked up.
“There appears to be no rational explanation for the prolonged detention of children,” stated the report titled “The Forgotten Children”.
“The mandatory and prolonged immigration detention of children is in clear violation of international human rights law.”
Australia has long come under international pressure over the detention of asylum-seekers arriving by boat, particularly in offshore camps on the Indian Ocean territory of Christmas Island and on Nauru and Manus Island in the Pacific.
The numbers of children in immigration detention peaked at 1,992 in mid-2013 under the former Labor administration, but they have been significantly reduced to several hundred since the Abbott-led government was elected in September 2013.
An angry Abbott said his policies to stop the boats had cut the numbers in detention and questioned why the report was not launched when Labor was in power.
“Frankly this is a blatantly partisan politicised exercise and the Human Rights Commission ought to be ashamed of itself,” he told Fairfax Radio.
“Where was the human rights commission when hundreds of people were drowning at sea? Where was the human rights commission when there were almost 2,000 children in detention?”