Australian of the Year demands release of refugees

[TamilNet, Monday, 25 January 2010, 16:28 GMT]
Mental health expert Patrick McGorry has slammed the Australian Government’s policies of mandatory detention of asylum seekers on offshore facilities, labelling the centres "factories for producing mental illness" and urging Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to free refugees, including hundreds of Tamils, currently being detained there.

"Detention centres ... you could almost describe them as factories for producing mental illness and mental disorder ... it's an absolute disaster," MGcorry said on Monday, hours after being awarded the prestigious Australian of The Year Award for his tireless efforts in helping young people plagued by mental health related issues.

In his acceptance speech, McGorry promised to take on PM Rudd’s stance on the issue, who only moments earlier described the world renowned psychiatrists contribution to the nation as one that “cannot every be fully measured”.

Prof McGorry urged the Government to allow asylum seekers to be allowed to live in communities and bypass the detention process whilst awaiting processing, which he believed would only compound the trauma that many refugees fleeing regions of bloodshed have already endured.

"I've heard some terrible stories and I've seen some lives really shattered by this policy" he said in his address outside Parliament House.

The Government has so far resisted calls by human rights groups for the Christmas Island detainment facility to be closed amid fears of the psychological impact long term detention is having upon detainees, evidenced by a spate of incidents including scuffles between Afghan and Tamil refugees.

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