Manus Island Asylum Seekers Have 'Deteriorating' Mental Health Due to Trauma and Torture

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By Reissa Su | May 27, 2014 7:41 PM EST

Latest clinical assessments in Australia-run detention centres revealed that half of asylum seekers are suffering from mental health problems like stress or anxiety and depression. According to Fairfax Media, the Manus Island detention centre has not had a full-time psychiatrist for over three months.

The assessments also found that the asylum seekers detained in Manus Island are worse off than those in Australia and on Christmas Island. Reports said the severity of their mental health conditions is proportional to the period of their detention.

Most of the health findings in the clinical assessments were included in a report by the International Health and Medical Services (IHMS). The organisation was hired to provide medical services to Australia's detention centres. The report was prepared for the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, according to the Sydney Morning Hearld.

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.

Dr Peter Young, medical director for mental health of IHMS, spoke of the mental health status of asylum seekers in detention centres. He said their mental health deteriorates over time.

Aside from mental health problems, asylum seekers have complained of "worse conditions" in detention centres, according to reports. A court in Papua Guinea heard detailed accounts of asylum seekers eating worm-infested bread and enduring living in a "prison-like" environment. The asylum seeker detention facility in Manus Island is run by the Australian government.

The 25-year-old witness from Iraq told the PNG court that he was compelled to pull apart the bread provided in the facility to get rid of worms. Speaking through a translator, the asylum seeker said they found worms in the cereal and bread.  However, the Manus Island authorities still continued to hand out the bread.

The asylum seeker was the first witness to testify before the Justice David Cannings inquiry. It was previously alleged that Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison had told asylum seekers to "not even dream about coming to Australia."

The first witness recounted what Morrison had said and described the minister as being "a bit angry." He told the court that the asylum seekers detained in Manus Island seldom had soap for use in toilets and most of the time, they had no water in the bathrooms.

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