May 21, 2013
Commonwealth Ombudsman Colin Neave has expressed concern about the mental health of people being held in detention centres for long periods of time, saying the policies for dealing with them are inadequate.
Mr Neave has released a report which was prompted by an escalation in the rate of self-harm in immigration detention centres in 2011.
It found there is a strong link between longer stays in detention and self-harm.
The report found the immigration detention system was under significant strain in 2011, but the situation improved with the introduction of bridging visas late that year.
The Ombudsman says the decision to release asylum seekers on bridging visas reduced the rate of self-harm, but says concerns remain about those in long-term detention.
He says there are no adequate policies in place to deal with the mental health needs of long-term immigration detainees.
Some asylum seekers are held long-term due to adverse ASIO assessments and the Ombudsman acknowledges the Immigration Department faces complex problems with such cases.
He says while the department is working to address issues highlighted by previous reports, there is still room for improvement and challenges remain due to the high number of asylum seekers arriving by boat.
There have been four confirmed suicides in the detention network in the past three years.