Medics slam Australia immigrant detention

2011-08-18 12:29

Sydney - Australia's top medical body has condemned the mandatory detention of boatpeople as "inherently harmful" to their physical and mental health, after documents revealed a surge in self-harm among detainees.

Steve Hambleton, president of the Australian Medical Association (AMA), used a dinner speech attended by Prime Minister Julia Gillard to slam her government's policy of locking up asylum seekers who arrive by boat.

Describing it as an "ethical and public health issue", Hambleton took the unusual step of directly appealing to Gillard about mandatory detention, which came under scrutiny this week in a government inquiry.

"The AMA believes that the system of mandatory detention of asylum seekers is inherently harmful to the physical and mental health of detainees," Hambleton said in his Wednesday night speech.

"The harm is especially acute in the case of children."

Documents presented this week to a committee examining Canberra's long-standing mandatory detention policy revealed a jump in acts and threats of self-harm across the detention network to 1 132 in the 12 months to June 30, from just 90 the previous year.

Official investigation

There were six deaths in immigration facilities - mostly suicides – 1 320 hunger strikes, 2 473 hospitalisations and 93 psychiatric admissions.

An official investigation has already been launched into the incidence of self-harm and suicide, with health officials warning the situation is so bad a detainee attempts to hang himself almost every night.

Hambleton said "despite improvements" to medical care for detainees the fact that asylum seekers were locked up, often at extremely remote locations, meant their health continued to suffer.

"Prime minister and opposition leader, we leave the politics of asylum seekers to you," he said, appealing to both Gillard and conservative leader Tony Abbott, who was also in the audience.

"But we urge both sides of politics to do all that is possible to ensure that these poor people are assured access to quality healthcare."

Hambleton's comments came a day after Andrew Metcalfe, the head of the immigration department, urged the government to consider alternatives to mandatory detention following riots and protests at the troubled centres.

  • BOFFINBOB - 2011-08-18 12:38

    So what !!! Send them somewhere else. You dont see Australians setting off on boats & claiming to be refugees. Africans must stay in Africa or apply for immigration through the correct channels. Refugees.....Let them in & they will breed & offer nothing of value to Audtralian Society. Instead they will become a burden to your tax payers.

      daaivark - 2011-08-18 12:43

      Mr Tolerance himself!

      King Msendi - 2011-08-18 12:45

      There is nowhere in the story the word Africans is mentioned.

      StaalBurgher - 2011-08-18 13:37

      Yeah, this is mostly about the people from the Phillipines, Malaysia? Place like that to the north. Regardless, the principle is the same. Australia must get rid of those guys otherwise their country will merely get swamped. Perhaps if they stop breeding they won't have such an over population problem. If you let them in they will just continue with their habits of old and the local Australians will have to pay for them while having to deal with accusations of racism, increased crime etc. I agree the facilities should probably be better but they need to send those people back ASAP.

  • daaivark - 2011-08-18 12:45

    From footage and photos I have seen, the conditions are appalling. One doesn't need a medical degree to come to this conclusion.

      StaalBurgher - 2011-08-18 13:38

      As long as they get rid of those people and remove them from Australia they can improve the prison conditions however they want.

      OzzyInSA - 2011-08-18 14:26

      The conditions are not appalling. A lot of the detention centres are in first class condition including flat screen tv's, etc. Then they get trashed by the detainees.

      daaivark - 2011-08-18 14:28

      Ja right.

  • Ross - 2011-08-18 13:52

    It will also be inherently harmful to the Australian taxpayers if they let them in. The government should fly them back to their respective countries and sink their ships so that they cannot be used again. Illegal aliens must have a vee clipped out of their left ear so they can be easily identified. These people hate Westerners but follow them to the end of the Earth, wonder why?.

      2WhiteStars - 2011-08-18 15:46


      Komasa - 2011-08-18 15:47

      @Ross we also hate westerners but somehow you guys don't get the message.

      BOFFINBOB - 2011-08-18 16:25

      Komasa...Your races hatred of westerners stems from a lifetime of underachieving & is pure jealousy. But you love our way of life & the nice " things " our forefathers invented & contributed to mankind. Not so.

  • tony.delucchi - 2011-08-18 13:57

    .....seems as if everybody has rights but the very pale people who run relatively calm and balanced countries......makes one wonder does'nt it!

  • AlphaOne - 2011-08-18 14:02

    Australia should do the right thing and direct them to New Zealand

  • OzzyInSA - 2011-08-18 14:28

    So, what's the alternative? Let them (some of whom are criminals) come in and set up without questioning/processing? Should they be billeted with families until they are processes? Or should they stay at the Hilton? As I said a lot of these people are not refugees. There is a criminal element among them and others are just trying to bypass the immigration laws.

      fly - 2011-08-18 15:31

      I agree totally , why even let them of their boats into the detention centres ,supply them with food and water and escort them out to international waters and install a tracking device to track them all the way back to where they came from

  • Wallaby27 - 2011-08-18 15:10

    If they want to arrive illegally, then suffer the consequences. Why should we have to foot the bill for the costs involved with them arriving with no possessions, money or skills.. Jeepers! Its not like that are medically ill, it is self inflicted!!

      daaivark - 2011-08-18 15:15

      So I suppose the suffering they have gone through in their countries of birth are self-inflicted too? Rather a self-righteous stance you adopt here, Mate.

      Komasa - 2011-08-18 15:52

      Wallaby you don't have to justify your actions on a SA website. Australian history speaks for itself, as it did in the 1960s. Your ancestorial lineage is nothing to be proud of.

      OzzyInSA - 2011-08-18 16:56

      The point is daaivark, there are legal ways for refugees to come into Australia without resorting to get in the back door illegally.

      Orcanda - 2011-08-18 17:27

      I totally believe that they trash these places. They make the detention centres unlivable for themselves., living in Africa I know how it is they do break things and yes I talk to a few of my colleagues working on contracts here from the Phillipines and Malaysia, they say its mostly people with criminal intentions that go to other countries to try to get into that countries and yes they would trash places like detention centres to try and force the sympathy of people on them. Daaivark you of all people should not live in a bubble you live in africa and you see daily how people trash this country why are you so quick to critisize Australia? Is it just because it is Australia? Your hatred for them show so clearly, ag no man. You are very self righteous yourself

  • anfield - 2011-08-18 15:41

    Save a lot of trouble if the boat was turned around and given a big push back in the direction from where it came. This should be the norm all around the world were people seeking to live off another country go. Once they get a foothold they bring in Uncle Tom Cobly ans all! Australia take note, look at the state of England. South london is little Africa, Midlands, Lancashire (eg) Blackburn & Yorkshire (eg) Bradford have nearly as many Asians as the countries they come from. Bringing there religions, laws, disease. They cause overcrowding, living together in communities that have increased six fold to the original inhabitants. No don't go there, get shut.

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