Psychological disturbances in asylum seekers held in long term detention

A participant-observer account

A. Sultan*, K. O'Sullivan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/opinion

110 Citations (Scopus)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)593-596
Number of pages4
JournalMedical Journal of Australia
Issue number11-12
Publication statusPublished - 3 Dec 2001
Externally publishedYes

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