News National Refugee self-harm epidemic

Refugee self-harm epidemic

Peter Dutton
It has been suggested Peter Dutton would head such a body. Photo: AAP
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Detainees who self-harm are given support, the government says, as figures show an alarming number are hurting themselves in Australian detention centres.

In the 12 months to July last year there were 706 acts of self-harm in Australia’s onshore detention centres – almost two incidents a day.

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Fairfax Media obtained the Immigration Department figures under freedom of information laws.

“All incidents of self-harm, no matter how significant, are reported,” an Immigration Department spokesman told AAP on Saturday.

“Any detainee who threatens to self-harm or self-harms, receives immediate and appropriate medical care and support.”

The self-harm acts included asylum seekers swallowing poisons such as insect repellent, Fairfax reports.

Others bashed their heads on walls and doused their bodies with boiling water.

There were more acts of self-harm at onshore detention centres than on Nauru and Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island.

In the year to July there were 188 incidents of self-harm among asylum seekers at Nauru, and 55 self-harm acts on Manus Island.

The department said injured detainees in offshore centres were immediately given counselling and medical services.

“The services provided in both Nauru and Papua New Guinea are broadly comparable with health services available within the Australian community,” a spokesman said.

“The department can advise that the number of self-harm incidents in both Papua New Guinea and Manus Island have reduced considerably in recent months.”

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said the situation was unacceptable and alarming.

“The fact that children are so traumatised that they’re resorting to shocking acts of self-harm is appalling,” she said.

The incident logs detailing the self-harm were obtained from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection by the University of Melbourne’s Law Students for Refugees, in conjunction with Fairfax.

Last year, a Senate inquiry report was scathing of the company contracted to run Australia’s detention centres and its track record on Nauru, saying it appeared the centre was not run well.

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