Monday 24 October at 8.30pm on ABC1
Right now there are over 4,000 people held in immigration detention centres across Australia. On average, asylum seekers remain in detention for around a year, but that figure hides a group of people who remain locked away for much longer periods of time. Just over a year ago, the Federal Government announced it would begin releasing children into the community to minimise the harm caused by their incarceration. At the same time, thousands of adults remain locked away in detention centres remote from the rest of the world – a situation that’s concerning to many healthcare professionals. Says one:
“What we’ve observed is people who seem to be in detention for periods of 12 to 15 months onwards, start to develop very significant mental health problems and certainly people who’ve been in detention 15, 18 plus months have very high rates of psychiatric morbidity.”
Despite a massive debate about Australia’s asylum seeker policy, few people know what life is really like inside detention camps. According to refugee activists, the reason is simple – the Government does not want the broader population seeing the conditions inside and the impact the camps are having on the detainees. Now, reporter Sarah Ferguson has gathered together startling evidence exposing the truth about life inside; how medication prescribed to asylum seekers is being misused and how many cases of self harm are going unreported, giving the public a false impression of conditions behind the wire.
In the wake of the Government’s failure to engineer an offshore processing solution, and with detention centres close to capacity, the Government is now exploring alternatives, such as community detention. But that does not help the people who remain locked inside the camps. With a growing body of evidence that shows detention can cause long term psychological harm, what are the consequences of the current policy? Are people being damaged for life? If they are finally given refugee status, will they ever be able to participate fully in community life – being trained, winning jobs and raising families – or will they simply become a problem that future generations will have to deal with?
‘Asylum’, presented by Kerry O’Brien, goes to air on Monday 24th October at 8.30pm on ABC1. It is repeated on Tuesday 25th October at 11.35pm. It can also be seen on ABC News 24 at 8.00pm on Saturdays, on iview (abc.net.au/iview) and at abc.net.au/4corners.