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Desperately seeking asylum
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  1. I D Wacogne
  1. Dr Wacogne was on secondment at the Royal Children's Hospital, Brisbane for two years and is now a locum consultant in general paediatrics at Birmingham Children's Hospital, UK

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Opening the newspaper you read about a nation holding 2700 people in detention without trial. Of these, 600 are children, and of these, 50 are children not accompanied by a member of their family. Amnesty International alleges that staff refer to inmates by number instead of name, that solitary confinement is used as punishment even for children, and that tear gas is used without discrimination to quell disturbances.

The year is 2002, the month January and the country, not some pariah state where these sorts of statistics provoke a sigh and the thought “Oh no, not again”, but Australia. The people are the illegal immigrants.

The camps are private facilities, run by a company called Australian Correctional Management, itself a division of the American company Wackenhut Correctional Corp. Enclosed by razor wire, the camps are in some of Australia's most inhospitable spots. The other side of the wire is desert with daytime temperature far in excess of body temperature, …

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