The Federal Government will remove selected children from the Woomera detention centre to prevent their involvement in hunger strikes and lip-sewing, Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock said yesterday.
Five children without parents or guardians at the centre would be removed as soon as possible and placed in community foster care to stop them being coerced into protest actions by adult detainees, Mr Ruddock said. Those being removed are aged under 14, and Mr Ruddock said more may follow.
The move came on the eighth day of the protest at the troubled centre in outback South Australia and as more than 30 people at the Maribyrnong detention centre in Melbourne continued a hunger strike in sympathy.
The Woomera detainees say they are protesting over the conditions at the centre and visa processing delays.
Mr Ruddock said that in addition to the five children being removed from Woomera, further seven were subject to child abuse notifications that were being investigated.
It is believed the seven have had their lips sewn at some stage during the protest. All but one of the seven have parents in the detention centre.
Mr Ruddock has also asked South Australian authorities to refer adults suspected of sewing children's lips together to police.
Up to 11 children at the centre have been involved in lip-sewing and hunger strikes in the past week. Mr Ruddock yesterday claimed that two children had their lips sewn together at the centre by protesting adults.
"The reports indicate that in relation to two children, lips had been sewn together and it's believed this was not self-inflicted ... They were found to be dehydrated and in relation to questioning one of the parents, a statement was made ... saying the act would be undertaken again," he said.
The children removed from Woomera would be placed in foster care and emergency accommodation in Adelaide, he said.
Henry L. Marconi PRAVDA.Ru Sydney