On behalf of our members, AFRAM has written letters to state and federal MPs which addressed our concerns regarding the current mental health of refugees and asylum seekers.
However, individual letters are always more effective, as MPs are under obligation to write back to members of their own electorate. Therefore, we encourage all AFRAM members and non-members to take action by writing their own letter. We have included a stencil below that you may like to use as a guide.
MPs consituent/s name
I am writing to you regarding my ongoing concern about the mental health of refugees and asylum seekers within Australia.
There is substantial and convincing evidence, locally and internationally, to ascertain the relationship between detention of asylum seekers and the negative impact on their mental well-being . Asylum seekers and refugees represent a group that is one of the most traumatised and most vulnerable . Experiences of systematic oppression, torture, traumatic loss, displacement and exposure to violence haunt the daily realities of most asylum seekers .
This trauma is only compounded by our national policy of mandatory detention and off-shore processing and is reflected in unacceptable mental health outcomes.
The incidence and prevalence of depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, self-harm, suicidal ideation and post-traumatic stress is unacceptably high in this group. More than 60% of detainees suffer some form of mental illness and this is exacerbated by prolonged or indefinite mandatory detention [1,2].
Refugees and asylum seekers are, both ethically and legally, undeniably under the duty of care of the Commonwealth of Australia and AMSA is concerned that the ethical delivery of health services is compromised by the nature of mandatory detention, which condemns asylum seekers to continuous mental trauma without appropriate medical attention.
My concerns are in alignment with those expressed by the Australian Medical Student’s Association (AMSA), the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP), the Australian Medical Association (AMA), the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) and the Australian Psychological Society (APS).
I urge the government to consider AMSA’s recommendations to:
- Avoid punitive deterrence policies regarding the treatment of asylum seekers that amplify mental health trauma in order to uphold the fundamental rights of asylum seekers to seek protection as per its obligations under the UN Refugee Convention. This includes ceasing prolonged or indefinite mandatory detention and off-shore processing.
- Support the State governments in improving availability and accessibility of mental health support services for both asylum seekers and refugees in and out of detention. This includes assessment of their mental health, adequate access to mental health professionals and appropriately trained service staff.
- Provide leadership by accurately informing the public about global state of refugee movement, rights of refugees under the Refugee Convention and the welfare and treatment of asylum seekers and refugees in Australia.
As a constituent of your electorate, I would like to engage with you in improving the mental health of asylum seekers and refugees. I am interested to know what stance you, irrespective of your party’s view, take in light of the above facts and concerns. I look forward to hearing back from you.
(YOUR HOME ADRESS)(this is important to show that you are a member of their electorate)
1.Bull M, Schindeler E, Berkman D et al. Sickness in the System of Long-term Immigration Detention. Journal of Refugee Studies. 2012.
2.Newman L. Seeking Asylum – Trauma, Mental Health, and Human Rights: An Australian Perspective. Journal of Trauma & Dissociation. 2013.