The process of applying for refugee status in Australia is complex, lengthy and often poorly understood by asylum seekers. The psychological reaction patterns of detainees whose claims for asylum are unsuccessful are characterised by stages of increasing depression, punctuated by periods of protest, as feelings of injustice overwhelm them. These reactions have a marked secondary impact on their children in detention. The prolonged detention of asylum seekers appears to cause serious psychological harm. Even if many of those who spend long periods of time are not deemed to have proven their refugee claims, this administrative decision should not be grounds for inflicting grave ongoing psychological injury on the applicants.