Human Rights Alliance Press Release: August 19th 2011 The Australian Medical Assocation, following others, such as the UNHCR and the AHRC has supported our calls and our personal witness that Mandatory Detention has grievous traumatic and deleterious impacts and effects upon those whom come before it.
We have long warned of Detention Centre Deaths and these are a contemporary phenomena on the Australian landscape, with six Detention Centre Deaths in the last eleven months, with five of them suicides. More deaths will occur. However the impacts of Mandatory Detention must be understood not only in terms of pre-release however post-release where it is quite evident that there shall be more post-release deaths in the equivalent periods following release.
Australian Mandatory Detention has a grotesqute prison like design principle and the modality of this prison design principle is not contemporary however harks to Australian prison designs of more than six decades old. I have visited prisons and Detention Centres, and I have met with Asylum Seekers who spent up to a year in Detention Centres and who have spent a year in Australian prisons and sadly they describe the Australian Prison experience 'a hundred times better' than the Detention Centres and especially when compared to Christmas Island, Darwin and Curtin Detention Centres. They say, "at least in prison we have something to do and courses to do and the staff are kinder and more caring..." And yet Australia has one of the world's worst prison deaths in custody records and yet they describe Mandatory Detention a hundred times worse!
Mandatory Detention leads to the manifest of various clinical disorders, various depressions, acute, abject and chronic, various physical and mental breakdowns, unflagged medical attention which advances various conditions to the irreparable. Mandatory Detention is undermined by its prison like principles, by the fact that it incarcerates peoples rather than assists their Seeking of Asylum, that reflects upon them the libellous image of criminality. Mandatory Detention languishes a systemic divisiveness between peoples, dissociates peoples, manifests various paranoia, psychoses, various social phobias which do not cease one people are released.
The negative impacts of Mandatory Detention are evidenced post-release by the high number of disability claims, the high number of people seeking psychosocial counselling and psychiatric help, by the high number of people who are not immediately employable, by the high number of various social phobias.
Mandatory Detention has a claustrophic effect, and can lead to the onset of acute clinic disorders where people exhibit paranoia, catatonia, hebephrenia and hence the onset in some of various schizoid and schizophrenic conditions. People are going out of Mandatory Detention worse than what they came in - and this ensures a legacy of burdens to the individuals, their families, and to the Australian health communities.
In the least Mandatory Detention can induce agoraphobia, evident in many of those post-release.
Mandatory Detention is inferior even to the prison system as it employs personnel who are inadequately trained, who lack various knowledges and who hence can have a harrassing and intimidatory effect upon those incarcerated in detention. Many personnel who work in Detention Centres were employed thereabouts from 'Centrelink queues' without various what should have been requisite training.
Many stressors affect Asylum Seekers, and these include the whole concept of imprisonment, of being cut off from various communities and their suite of rights, of the clandestine natures of Australian Mandatory detention that inhibits unfettered access to advocates, professionals and the media, of unflagged medical attention, of distrust, that their cultural identity is perceived as a liability, and other stressors include various racisms and various perceived oppressions while in the detention centre experience. Stressors that must not be mitigated in any way include the fear of the unknown - whether they will be returned to their homelands and where they fear they will be persecuted or killed (they are all aware of people deported who have been murdered), how long they will be in detention, whether they will be accepted on their first or second interviews or on appeal. The process is critically unhealthy and is causal to mental dissociations or the manifest of hysteria and the onset of various meltdowns including panic disorders, neuroses and much worse.
It appears that most Asylum Seekers try very hard to keep themselves together however at the one year mark there appears to be a threshold that is reached where they do breakdown mentally and physically, where the fear of the unknown overruns them.
It is dramatic that a Mental Health Nurse was sacked from Darwin's Northern Immigration Detention Centre for commenting that Mandatory Detention has an adverse effect. This Nurse is correct. It is an indictment of the clandestine nature of the system that she has been sacked.
I keep in contact with hundreds of Asylum Seekers in Christmas Island, Curtin, Darwin, Scherger Detention Centres however also in Leonora, Perth, Banksia, Marybedong, Inverbrackie and Villawood and I can attest to the endemic negative impacts, and that they will continue post-release.
Scherger Detention Centre will resume hunger protests if promises are not kept, people are emotionally emaciated.
Curtin Detention Centre is a nightmare in waiting, with people breaking down daily, and its remote, clandestine location plays on the minds of all those incarcerated for far too long which include more than two years.
There shall be more Detention Centre Deaths, there shall be continuing rises in self harms, traumas and multiple traumas, suicide and multiple suicide attempts and sucides and deaths from unnatural causes. There shall be even worse post release and this shall be legacy, a scandal-in-waiting, similar to the brunt of the burden borne of the Stolen Generation.
Let us understand that at Christmas Island Detention Centre people were burying themselves in shallow graves, this is the manifest of meltdown and mental abberations, Mandatory Detention is doing this to them.
PhD Law researcher, Australian Deaths in Custody
Convener, Human Rights Alliance