Doctor claims he was ordered to hide evidence of migrant camp suffering
THE wraps were taken off Australia’s sordid immigration policies today when a doctor revealed the extent the government went to in avoiding taking in refugees.
Doctor Peter Young previously supervised mental health services at detention camps in Papua New Guinea and Nauru.
He told a hearing by the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) that the government had instructed him to cover up evidence that children held in the camps were suffering from widespread mental illness caused by their confinement.
Under policies aimed at stopping asylum seekers reaching Australia’s mainland by boat, migrants are sent to offshore camps where they face long periods in detention.
Refugee advocates have long argued that extended detention contributes to mental health problems in the camps.
Immigration Department secretary Martin Bowles admitted that he was not in a position to deny the allegations, but urged the commission not to rely on what he claimed was a “one-sided” account.
The conservative government has boasted of its success in deterring asylum-seekers but its policies have drawn criticism from human rights groups and the United Nations, which has raised concerns Australia could be in violation of UN refugee conventions.
AHRC president Gillian Triggs visited one centre this month and said many children being held were suffering symptoms consistent with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Right-wing Prime Minister Tony Abbott retorted: “No one wants to see children in detention, but the only way to avoid this is to stop the boats and this government is utterly determined to stop them.”