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Psychologists support condemnation of immigration detention

The Australian Psychological Society (APS) supports the call of doctors at the Royal Children’s Hospital for all children and families in detention to be released into the community while their refugee status is determined and agrees that appropriate care cannot be provided in a detention environment.

APS President Prof Mike Kyrios says the APS is gravely concerned about the harmful effects of immigration detention on the mental health of asylum seekers, particularly children.

In its 2014 submission to the Human Rights Commission Inquiry into Children in Detention, the APS reported that the mental health consequences for children in detention were alarming.

Research has found significantly high rates of mental health disorders including depression, suicidal ideation, anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and sleep disorder in those subject to immigration detention.

Prof Kyrios says, “It is clear that detention exacerbates mental health issues in people who have pre-existing trauma or mental illness, and that detention itself is an ongoing trauma responsible for new mental health problems.”

He adds, “Psychological treatment is unlikely to be effective within these harmful detention environments.” He says from a psychological perspective it is critical that families be kept together.

Prof Kyrios says the serious adverse mental health impacts of long-term immigration detention can last well beyond the period of detention, particularly for those who are detained in remote facilities where there is inadequate access to mental health and other services.

The APS urges the Australian government to adopt a fair refugee status determination process, which minimizes the use of immigration detention and does not detain children and families; does not use detention facilities offshore or in remote locations; prioritises community-based alternatives to detention and processes refugee claims as quickly as possible.


For more information, or to arrange an interview call the APS Media team on 03 8662 3358 or 0435 896 444, or email media@psychology.org.au. Find the APS Media team on Twitter: @AustPsych

The APS is the largest professional organisation for psychologists in Australia, representing more than 23,000 members. The APS is committed to advancing psychology as a discipline and profession. It spreads the message that psychologists make a difference to people’s lives, through improving psychological knowledge and community wellbeing.