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Law in Context

Abstract from Volume 22 No 2 (2005) Nationality, Refugee Status and State Protection

Lonely Refuge: Judicial Responses to Separated Children Seeking Refugee Protection in Australia

Mary Crock, BA (Hons) LLB (Hons) PhD (Melb), is an Associate Professor in Law at the University of Sydney. She helped to establish and run the Victorian Immigration Advice and Rights Centre in Melbourne, now known as the Refugee and Immigration Law Centre Inc (Vic). She has assumed leadership roles as Chair of various migration law related committees for the Law Institute of Victoria, the Law Society of New South Wales and the Law Council of Australia. She is chief examiner for all of Australia’s specialist accreditation programs for lawyers in the area of immigration law.

This article examines the way that Australian courts have responded to the phenomenon of child asylum seekers who are not travelling as part of a family group or with any other form of guardian or protector. The article begins by outlining Australia’s experience of ‘separated’ children who seek protection as refugees, explaining the particular problems facing both the children and the status determination authorities. The body of the article examines the law and policy relevant to the processing of these children and the way the courts are shaping the law. An analysis is made of two groupings of issues. The first relates to the processing of refugee claims by separated children and the extent to which the courts have adjusted the legal frames of reference to accommodate these young people. The second matter concerns the characterisation of the children and their experiences within the context of the international legal definition of refugee. In so far as it is possible to discern a trend in the Australian cases, the article argues that indications are that some judges have been prepared to recognise the particular needs of these young, vulnerable and very lonely refugees.

(2005) Volume 22 No 2 Law in Context 120

   
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