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The provision of mental health services for asylum seekers and refugees

31 October 2017

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrist (RANZCP) has updated its position paper on the provision for mental health services for asylum seekers and refugees, which provides more recent data on the mental health needs of asylum seekers and refugees and strongly advocates the College’s opposition to the policy of mandatory detention.

The key points of the updated statement are that:

  • Asylum seekers and refugees have a high prevalence of mental and physical health problems related to their experiences. Prolonged or indefinite detention itself is known to contribute to adverse mental health outcomes. Despite this, asylum seekers and refugees often have inadequate access to necessary supports and services.
  • The RANZCP urges the development of initiatives to address existing, and prevent further, psychiatric and other health and developmental problems among asylum seekers and refugees. This includes trauma-informed care – an approach that acknowledges trauma, its prevalence, impacts and dynamics and that requires recognition of the lived experience of trauma and awareness of ‘triggers’ that can lead to re-traumatisation.
  • The RANZCP holds that detention for immigration purposes should be a measure of last resort and, if unavoidable, should be independently and strictly regulated and monitored, in a similar manner to other institutional settings, to ensure that detained individuals have their health needs and human rights met.
  • Immigration detention facilities should be located in onshore areas with good access to high-quality mental health, trauma and physical health services and facilities, and not in remote or offshore locations.
  • Detention should not be used coercively, as a punishment or for deterrence.

Read the complete updated position statement The provision of mental health services for asylum seekers and refugees: position statement 46.