Australia Immigration Accused of Torturing and 'Deliberately Harming' Asylum Seekers

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By Reissa Su | August 6, 2014 10:46 AM EST

Australia's immigration department intentionally harms vulnerable asylum seekers. In a report by the Guardian, the chief psychiatrist taking care of the detainees' mental health has revealed that asylum seekers in detention centres were "suffering."

REUTERS/Aulia Pratama/Files
Asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran cry as Indonesian officers force them to leave the Australian vessel Hermia docked at Indah Kiat port in Merak, Indonesia's Banten province in this April 9, 2012 file photo. REUTERS/Aulia Pratama/Files

Dr Peter 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 described the environment as "inherently toxic" as the process can affect the asylum seekers' mental health over time. He declared he has "very 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.

Young revealed to the Guardian how the immigration department's system has become "harsh" as doctors' ethics are compromised for coercing detainees to stop seeking asylum in Australia. The psychiatrist said the process is "akin to torture."

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). 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.

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.

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(Photo: REUTERS/Aulia Pratama/Files / )
Asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran cry as Indonesian officers force them to leave the Australian vessel Hermia docked at Indah Kiat port in Merak, Indonesia's Banten province in this April 9, 2012 file photo. REUTERS/Aulia Pratama/Files
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