SYDNEY – All asylum-seeking children being held at a detention center on the Pacific island nation of Nauru will soon have been evacuated, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Sunday.
Australia began evacuating the children in October after months of requests from doctors, humanitarian organizations, opposition members of parliament and some members of the ruling party who were concerned about the deterioration of the minors’ mental health.
“With the last four children booked to leave for the US, every asylum seeker child will now be off Nauru,” Morrison said in a video statement posted on his official Twitter account.
He did not specify the date of departure of the four minors, who were the last of a total of 109 who were in the detention centre in August.
The decision was hailed by Maurice Blackburn, the law firm representing the asylum-seekers, but did regret the time taken to remove the children from Nauru.
“Today’s news that all children will soon be removed from Nauru is a welcome development for these children and their families and is long overdue,” Maurice Blackburn head of Social Justice Jennifer Kanis said.
“This action has taken far too long and at times has been very hard fought,” she added.
“We remain very concerned for the physical and mental health of all those who remain in detention and we again call for the Federal Parliament to urgently pass the medical evacuation bill to get sick adults out of offshore detention for medical assessment and treatment in Australia,” she said in a statement.
Australia resumed its policy of detaining undocumented immigrants in third countries in 2012. The conditions under which these migrants are held have been repeatedly denounced by international organizations, including the United Nations.
In another tweet, Morrison praised the effectiveness of the policy.
“Our strong border protection policies have enabled us to secure our borders, stop the boats and the tragic drownings at sea while getting children out of detention and off Nauru without putting our stronger borders at risk,” he wrote.
Many of the refugees and asylum seekers who tried to enter Australia by sea fled conflicts in Afghanistan, Darfur, Pakistan, Somalia, and Syria. Others, like the Rohingya and the Bedouin peoples, come to the nation state to escape persecution.