The Manus detention centre is supposed to hold only adult men. It is far too harsh for women or children: even the Immigration Department understand that.

A Rohingyan boy has been held there for 18 months and he is still only 17. This will be his second Christmas on Manus.

A colleague sent me a message about him.  It includes the following:

“… He is currently 17 years of age, by his own account, and has been detained on Manus for over 25 months, since he was 15 years old. He no longer remembers his date of birth, but knows he was born in 1999. He is Rohingya, from Myanmar. He left Myanmar following a riot, in 2012.

The reason Immigration officials have recorded his age as older than this, leading to his detention, is that he has falsified papers, a “Family List”, required to obtain a White Card which allowed him to travel within Myanmar. His parents recorded his age as several years older, to facilitate the family moving.

[xxx] says he told Immigration, “100 times”, that his age was recorded incorrectly, and the reason for it, but they would not listen. He does not look older than 17 currently, and I am sure would have looked much younger over two years ago. …”

Leave aside the misery and degradation in Manus; leave aside the fact that we are holding innocent people there and treating them with conspicuous cruelty, on the logic of hanging a dead fox on the fence.  The fact is that he is a child.   If we have to lock up children, it should not be on Manus.

But we should not be locking up  people who have committed no offence anyway.  We need to be conscious of the harm we are inflicting, especially at Christmas time.

The Australian Medical Asociation recently announced its views about Australia’s asylum seeker policy. In summary:

* set a maximum time that can be spent in detention

* an unaccompanied child should never be in detention

* an accompanied child should be detained for no more than one month

* health, language, cultural and religious needs must be met

* doctors should not be obliged to artificially feed a hunger striker

* families should be prioritised for processing.  Read more here (