Minister in fiery exchanges at children in detention inquiry

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Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has given evidence at an inquiry into the treatment of children in detention centres, which has heard that the average length of time spent in detention has almost tripled since the Coalition took power.

The fourth and final hearing of the inquiry ended in a fiery exchange between Mr Morrison, his department secretary Martin Bowles and Human Rights Commission President Gillian Triggs, who declared that the “people on Christmas Island are being detained in a prison, effectively”.

She said visitors could not get into any section of the centre without going through armed guards adding that many people fly off the island via an unsafe airstrip for basic medical care.

“I have been a practising lawyer since I was 22-years-old,” she said.

“I have been to many prisons and I know a prison when I see it. These are prisons.”

Her comments were interrupted by both Mr Morrison and Mr Bowles, who argued that no armed guards were present at the Christmas Island centre.

He interjected as Dr Triggs stated that “these are locked detentions. To pretend that they’re not in remote islands-”

“Nobody is pretending anything of the sort,” he said.

“It is detention, absolutely, in the context of the policy. It is administrative detention.”

The fiery exchange came at the end of almost two hours of questioning, which also heard that the average length of time spent in detention had almost tripled since the Coalition took power.

Mr Morrison was presented with data obtained by the Commission, which found that the average length of time spent in detention had almost tripled to 349 days as of July 2014.

Mr Morrison said the fault lay with Labor and the Greens for blocking moves for temporary protection visas.

He said there is a lot of emotion about the issue of children in detention.

"Sentiment cannot be indulged in the face of saving lives," he said.

"Effective policy is being done but not without cost."

Allegations of sexual, physical and verbal assaults of asylum seeker children by Nauru detention centre staff have been detailed as part of submissions into the national inquiry by the Australian Human Rights Commission.

Staff employed on the Nauru Immigration Detention Centre detailed allegations of multiple violations of human rights in a submission to the National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention.

The 53-page document lodged by Save the Children Australia employees details multiple reports of sexual assault involving asylum seeker children, stating that no “working with children” safety check system exists in Nauru.

Mr Morrison has been critical of Dr Triggs, saying some of the allegations made were “sensational”.

His appearance at the inquiry followed an announcement that hundreds of children held in immigration detention on the Australian mainland are to be released into the community.

Mr Morrison unveiled the plan on Tuesday, announcing that children aged under 10 and their families released on bridging visas, if they arrived prior to July 19 last year.

The move is expected to save more than $50 million.

Source World News Australia

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