News / Asia

Psychiatrist Turns Spotlight on Mental Health of Children in Detention in Australia

FILE - In this Sept. 21, 2010 file photo, asylum seekers stop a fellow detainee from jumping off the Villawood Detention Center roof in Sydney, Australia, during a protest by the detainees who say they are scared of being returned to their home countries
FILE - In this Sept. 21, 2010 file photo, asylum seekers stop a fellow detainee from jumping off the Villawood Detention Center roof in Sydney, Australia, during a protest by the detainees who say they are scared of being returned to their home countries
Phil Mercer

A psychiatrist has told a Human Rights Commission inquiry that Australian immigration officials asked him to bury damning statistics about the deteriorating mental health of children in detention. Peter Young was a medical director for the immigration department for three years until he quit recently. He is the most senior figure to condemn Australia’s detention system, for would be immigrants, from within.

Mohsin, an ethnic Haraza from Afghanistan, escaped to Pakistan when he was seven.  His family was fleeing communal violence, but found itself facing new dangers.  

“I was in Pakistan.  Every day there was targeted killing, every day [a] bomb blast,” he recalled.

Desperate for safety, Mohsin then fled to Australia, arriving by boat as a child four years ago. He spent several months in immigration detention before being granted asylum.

“It is very, like, stressful and, you know, you have all the time depression. Detention center is like a jail.  Yeah, I saw many children same as my age - they were hurting themselves, you know, they were just depressed or maybe stressed,” said Mohsin.

An inquiry by Australia’s Human Rights Commission into children in detention has heard from one of the immigration department’s former chief psychiatrists, Dr. Peter Young, who alleges that officials asked him to bury damning statistics about the mental health of young detainees.

“The children themselves are more vulnerable to developing anxiety disorders, depression and a range of behavioral disorders. It was the fact that the department was quite alarmed by the disclosure of these results and I think were uncertain about what to do with them. As a result they did request that we didn’t publish them, we didn’t present them in any formal findings to them,” said Young.

Campaigners have long argued that children have no place in Australian immigration centers.

The president of the Human Rights Commission, Professor Gillian Triggs, said the inquiry has heard terrible stories of the effects of detention on children.

“We asked witnesses could they give us examples of self-harm or attempted suicides and one of the examples was drinking detergents. The head banging was very common. Jumping off heights. We heard others of plastic bags over the head, using the hijab to hang. There were example after example,” said Triggs.

Immigration officials insist that young detainees are well cared for in detention.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said claims of a cover-up over the mental health of children will be thoroughly investigated.

“Testimony will be provided, testimony will be tested, there will be a report that's conducted and I will look at that.  And I've always said - now I've had the Red Cross, I've had others at these centers, Save the Children, and they've come to me, in meetings that I've held with them, they've made good suggestions and I've taken those suggestions up and we've improved the conditions, not only on Nauru, but on Christmas Island as well.  Remember, it was our government that got the children to school on Christmas Island. When I became minister, there was no funding for those children to go to school every single day,” said Morrison.

The government Tuesday said it would release some children, currently held in locked detention, back into the community.

The move has been given a cautious welcome by rights groups.  The changes only apply to youngsters under 10 and only to those who arrived in Australia before last July.

It will apply to around 150 children, but it leaves another 500 in detention in Nauru, on Christmas Island and in other mainland detention centers.

You May Like

US Border Patrol Union Accused of Taking Sides on Immigration

Report alleges agents leaking info to immigration opponents, appearing at their private events; Center for Immigration Studies director defends agents' actions More

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Reporting from Somali capital for past decade, Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal has been working at one of Mogadishu's leading radio stations covering parliament More

Video Rights Monitor: Hate Groups' Use of Internet to Inflame, Recruit Growing

Wiesenthal Center's Abraham Cooper says extremists have become skilled at celebrating violence, ideology on Web More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Interneti
X
Mike O'Sullivan
June 30, 2015 8:20 PM
Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs