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

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

Video Sierra Leone's Ebola Lockdown Continues

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap 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.
Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’i
X
Jeff Seldin
September 20, 2014 10:28 PM
Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid