Detention centres and TPVs are bad for your health

Detention centre

Image: stephentrepreneur (CC BY-SA)

In Australia we grant Temporary Protection Visas (TPVs) to refugees – upon proving a well founded fear of persecution, they are granted three-year temporary visas, and are then faced with the difficulty of applying for further proetction.

New research from UNSW ”confirms that TPVs cause immense psychological distress to an already vulnerable and traumatised community”. Not surprisingly, the stress of being granted only temporary visas (remember, on real, legitimate refugees) exacts a high mental health toll. Zachary Steel, co-author of the recent research, notes:

Refugees on TPVs get trapped in a situation were they live in permanent fear about the future. Of the TPV holders interviewed, 80 per cent experienced intense and disabling feelings of fear and terror about the future compared to only eight per cent of those with permanent protection visas.


The same research shows that our mandatory detention policies are sorely lacking:

The 154 refugees who had spent time in detention had twice the risk of depression and three times the risk of traumatic stress compared to refugees who had not been in detention. The risk for depression was found to increase by 17 per cent for each additional month spent in detention.


We have certain obligations to provide protection to legitimate asylum seekers. It is abundantly clear that we are not, in fact, doing so.

When the Immigration Minister complains that refugees are having trouble integrating with society (see below), it seems extremely clear that a very large part of the problem is the quite horrific process we put them through.