Yesterday morning on Radio National the question was asked, “Why haven’t conditions improved in Australia’s detention centres?” That this isn’t seen as a question at sea with its own internal contradictions is indicative of the state of current debate. That the indefinite detention of people in privately run prison-style facilities could ever be seen anything other than antithetical to good mental heath outcomes is highly problematic. It is as if, with a bit of tinkering and fine-tuning, positive outcomes could be achieved.
This report came on the back of Monday’s Four Corners and an editorial in the Medical Journal of Australia, both of which asked far more revealing questions into the practice of harm inherent to Australia’s current border security policy. ABC’s Four Corners program detailed genuinely shocking conditions and harmful treatment of asylum seekers. The editorial by Louise Newman, chair of the federal government Detention Health Advisory Group, pointed to the high rates of threatened and actual self-harm resulting from prolonged detention.
Amidst these terrible mental health outcomes resulting from Australia’s border security policy, one cannot help but ask ‘who benefits here?’ Australian tax-payers are footing a hefty bill for the construction and maintenance of facilities, both on and off-shore in order to support policies that violate our obligations under international law. This is a lose-lose situation.
The only party that benefits here is the private security companies such as Serco, who as the New York Times detailed in a report last month, greatly profit from these inhumane solutions. But at what cost?
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