Concern for reopening of Christmas Island

07 August 2020
 
 
 
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) has expressed concern in relation to the Federal Government’s decision to reopen the detention facility located on Christmas Island to house people currently in immigration detention on mainland Australia.

Choosing to return people in immigration detention to Christmas Island has significant and detrimental mental health implications explained RANZCP President, Associate Professor John Allan.

‘Many of the people who will be relocated have existing and complex mental health issues, as well as physical and psychosocial comorbidities that will be exacerbated by sending them to an offshore detention centre’, said Associate Professor Allan.

‘This is particularly true for people who have previously spent months or years in offshore detention.

‘We are concerned that the government’s decision will harm this group of detainees, especially during a time of heightened anxiety related to COVID.'

Chair of the RANZCP Asylum Seeker and Refugee Mental Health Network Committee, Dr Kym Jenkins, said the Committee strongly advocates for the health and safety of people held in detention centres, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

‘We advocate that relocation of detainees to a remote offshore facility is not an effective or appropriate response to the COVID-19 pandemic,’ said Dr Jenkins.

‘The move, by the government, to relocate detainees could further traumatise, or re-traumatise these individuals and cause mental health issues that offshore detention centres are just not equipped to deal with due to the lack of available specialist care at this location.

‘The RANZCP Asylum Seeker and Refugee Mental Health Network Committee urge the government to reconsider their decision and look at other solutions to the problem that will prioritise the mental health and wellbeing of immigration detainees, as well as provide for a safe and socially distanced environment for those in the current detention centre and alternative places of detention.'

ENQUIRIES: For more information, or to arrange an interview call Sarah Carr on +61 437 315 911, or email media@ranzcp.org.

For all other expert mental health information, visit Your Health in Mind, the RANZCP’s consumer health information website.