190 Experts Issue Collective Statement Accusing Australia of 'Inhumane' Treatment of Asylum Seekers

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Sri Lankan asylum seekers who were sent back by Australia wait to enter a magistrate's court in Galle
Sri Lankan asylum seekers who were sent back by Australia cover their faces as they wait to enter a magistrate's court in the southern port district of Galle July 8, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer

A collective document has been released by leading psychiatrists, human rights lawyers, priests, novelists and refugee advocates containing accusing statements against Australia's "inhumane" treatment of asylum seekers. The experts in their respective fields have urged the Australian government to put an end to its offshore processing and mandatory detention practices.

The statement was signed by more than 190 people and organisations calling for the Australian government to stop pursuing an asylum seeker policy for adults and children. The experts said there were "clear evidence" that Australia's policy only causes self-harm, suicide and mental disorders.

Professor Louise Newman, one of Australia's leading psychiatrists and a signatory to the collective statement, said it contains the views and reactions of prominent Australians to asylum seekers, all of whom do not approve the government's "cruel, unnecessary and unacceptable" treatment.

Newman added that Australia's immigration detention crisis needs urgent action. Other prominent signatories were human rights lawyer Julian Burnside and novelist Dr Rosie Scott, according to reports.

The collective statement was released following the explosive revelations of Dr Peter Young, who is the former chief psychiatrist, assigned to monitor mental health of asylum seekers in Australia detention centres.

Young told the Guardian that detainees were subjected to a process comparable to torture. He accused Australia's immigration department of "deliberately inflicting harm" on vulnerable people. Young had described the environment as "inherently toxic" as the process can affect the asylum seekers' mental health over time. He declared he has clear evidence of people experiencing mental health problems.

Reports said Young is the most senior authority to condemn Australia's detention policy. In July, he served as director of mental health for International Health and Medical Services (IHMS). The organisation is the private contractor that provides medical care for asylum seekers detained on the mainland, Manus Island, Nauru and Christmas Island.

An increase of asylum seekers suffering from trauma and torture were recorded on Christmas Island despite the lack of boat arrivals. The report said the asylum seekers exposed to torture and suffer trauma need counseling services on the island. Most of the health findings in the clinical assessments were included in a report by the International Health and Medical Services (IHMS).

Amnesty International has repeatedly called on Australia to do something about plight of asylum seekers in detention. The agency said the country has violated international refugee convention. 

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