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It's time to give kids in detention their childhoods back.

Today, more than 100 children are losing precious childhood moments as they languish in detention on Nauru. It’s time to join this powerful campaign to give them back their lives.

Today The Guardian Australia is reporting that the school for asylum seeker children inside the detention centre on Nauru is set to close. That sad news follows reports that a five-year-old Iranian asylum seeker attempted suicide because she does not want to go back to detention on Nauru — which in turn, comes after the revelations by The Forgotten Children report and the Moss Inquiry’s that the lack of child protection on Nauru has resulted in the sexual and physical abuse of children.

Today, an Amnesty expert today calls on Mamamia readers to show the government there is every reason to release children from detention on Nauru – and end the damage this policy does to innocent children’s health, development and lives.

A lack of child protection on Nauru has resulted in children in detention being sexually and physically assaulted.

Since August 2013, the government has locked up children in an immigration detention centre on Nauru, a small, remote Pacific island about 3,000km from Australia.

At the moment, 107 children are detained at Australia’s detention centre on Nauru. More than 60 asylum seeker children and their families are detained in Australia but could be sent back to Nauru at any time. This includes infants.

Related content: This is the awful effect of keeping children in detention.

The policy has been condemned for by medical bodies, lawyers and human rights organisations for its abuse of children. Juan Mendez, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Torture – himself a survivor of torture – said that Australia “has violated the right of the asylum seekers, including children, to be free from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment”.

detention centres Nauru
Graeme McGregor of Amnesty International. (Photo: Supplied)

So what does this treatment look like?

The governments of Nauru and Australia have done their best to make sure people don’t find out. The media have consistently been denied entry to Australia’s detention centre on Nauru. Last year, the cost of a journalist visa for Nauru leapt from $200 to $8,000.

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At Amnesty International, we have requested entry to the facility three times. The first time we were told that that the authorities were too busy to let us in. The last two requests were met with silence.

“There is every reason to release children from detention on Nauru and end the damage this policy does to their health, development and lives.”

Despite these obstacles, the Australian Human Rights Commission and the Moss Inquiry into allegations of sexual assault have uncovered that:

  • A lack of child protection on Nauru has resulted in children in detention being sexually and physically assaulted. The police on Nauru do not have the capacity to investigate these crimes.
  • The children are detained in swelteringly hot, cramped conditions with little privacy and poor sanitation. Crucial emergency health care for children, such as infant resuscitation, is not available.
  • Long-term detention damages the health and development of children. After two years in detention, children display a ten-fold increase in psychiatric disorders, including self-harm and suicidal behaviour.

This month, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said in Parliament that “No one wants to see children in detention. No one wants to see children in detention.”

So why are they there?

Related content: These drawings by children in detention are heartbreaking.

Children are locked up on Nauru as part of the Australian government’s Operation Sovereign Borders policy, which aims to stop asylum seekers arriving by boat to seek protection in Australia.

But the Australian government has admitted publicly that keeping children in detention is not an essential or effective deterrent to asylum seekers arriving by boat.

The Australian government also recognises the terrible damage done to children by detention. Martin Bowles, at the time the Secretary of the Immigration Department, said, “There is a reasonably solid literature base, which we’re not contesting at all, which associates length of detention with a whole range of adverse health conditions.”

In December 2014, the government even committed to releasing children from detention centres in Australia. But not the kids on Nauru.

The asylum seeker children locked up by Australia on Nauru don’t need money. They don’t need toys. They need freedom to have a happy, safe childhood.

“A lack of child protection on Nauru has resulted in children in detention being sexually and physically assaulted.” (Image: Asylum Seeker Resource Centre/Facebook)

Amnesty International is asking Australians to tell the government: Give these kids a childhood, don’t take it away.

We’re asking you to share a favourite childhood memory by going here — or post your memory on Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr with the hashtags #LostChildren and #ShareaMemory

We’ll show the government what their child detention policy is destroying when we deliver your memories to the Australian government, along with the call to release all asylum seeker children and their families on Nauru to Australia.

There is every reason to release children from detention on Nauru and end the damage this policy does to their health, development and lives. There is simply no good reason not to.

Graeme McGregor is the refugee campaign coordinator for Amnesty International Australia.

To get involved in Amnesty International’s campaign, share a favourite childhood memory here — or post your memory on Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr with the hashtags #LostChildren and #ShareaMemory. Here are some social media contributions so far:

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