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

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Audio Top 5 Songs for Week Ending May 23

This week's lineup can be summed up like this: 'It's The Same Old Song' - but they're great songs - featuring Walk The Moon, The Weeknd, Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth 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.
Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmakingi
X
Bernard Shusman
May 24, 2015 2:55 PM
According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.
Video

Video Effort Underway to Limit Damage from California Oil Spill

Cleanup crews are working around the clock to remove oil from the waters off the coastal city of Santa Barbara, in California. About 380,000 liters of oil may have leaked out before a rupture in an onshore, underground pipeline was discovered Tuesday. The environmental disaster hit the popular West Coast resort area before the Memorial Day weekend. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports investigators have yet to determine what caused the incident.

VOA Blogs