Impact of immigration detention and temporary protection on the mental health of refugees

Steel, Zachary; Silove, Derrick; Brooks, Robert; Momartin, Shakeh; Alzuhairi, Bushra; Susljik, Ina
January 2006
British Journal of Psychiatry;Jan2006, Vol. 188, p58
Academic Journal
journal article
Background: Over the past decade, developed Western countries have supplied increasingly stringent measures to discourage those seeking asylum.Aims: To investigate the longer-term mental health effects of mandatory detention and subsequent temporary protection on refugees.Method: Lists of names provided by community leaders were supplemented by snowball sampling to recruit 241 Arabic-speaking Mandaean refugees in Sydney (60% of the total adult Mandaean population). Interviews assessed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), major depressive episodes, and indices of stress related to past trauma, detention and temporary protection.Results: A multilevel model which included age, gender, family clustering, pre-migration trauma and length of residency revealed that past immigration detention and ongoing temporary protection each contributed independently to risk of ongoing PTSD, depression and mental health-related disability. Longer detention was associated with more severe mental disturbance, an effect that persisted for an average of 3 years after release.Conclusions: Policies of detention and temporary protection appear to be detrimental to the longer-term mental health of refugees.


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