Immigration detention and health

Christine B Phillips
Med J Aust 2010; 192 (2): . || doi: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.2010.tb03417.x
Published online: 18 January 2010

On health grounds, immigration detention should be used in very limited ways

Like all rich nations, Australia has experienced an increase in people crossing its national borders without the documents authorising them to do so. Since 1992, Australia has had a policy of mandatory detention for these people. About a third of the people in immigration detention are asylum seekers who are requesting sanctuary under the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, to which Australia was an early signatory. Although some form of immigration detention exists in most developed countries, asylum seekers are generally released into the community after a period of time in detention, while their claims are being processed. Australia pioneered the notion that detention for asylum seekers was a kind of endgame, in which people arriving without authority stayed in detention until they obtained a visa or were deported. Among the Convention signatories, no other nation has followed suit.

  • Academic Unit of General Practice and Community Health, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT.

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