Refugees from Iran are being left with “shocking” psychological damage after long-term detention on remote Pacific islands, whilst waiting for the Australian government to hear their asylum claims, according to a senior United Nations refugee agency official.On Wednesday, Indrika Ratwatte said that the situation in Nauru and Manus Island in Papua New Guinea was one of the worst he had seen in his 25 years at the UN.

These locations currently house over 2,000 refugees, including adults, families and lone children, who had fled appalling governmental abuse in Iran, Afghanistan, Syria, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar. Some have been there since Australia implemented the controversial offshore processing policy in 2013.

Ratwatte, who heads the Asia and Pacific Bureau of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), noted that the children had suffered the most psychological and mental effects, including 40 children who were born in the refugee centres and 50 who have spent more than half their lives there.

Indeed, a 10-year-old from Iran was recently moved to Australia because they feared he would commit suicide if left in the detention centre.

He also noted that roughly 80% of the asylum-seekers and refugees were suffering from post-traumatic stress and depression.

He said: “This is per capita one of the highest mental health problems levels that have been noted.”

Worse still, there is a lack of psychiatric help and healthcare being offered by Australia, which only increases the despair among the refugees.

Ratwatte said: “The point here is also that Australia has had a long tradition of supporting refugee and humanitarian programmes globally, but on this one, the offshore processing policy has had an extremely detrimental impact on refugees and asylum-seekers.”

He urged Australia to support the authorities at the refugee centres with medical and psychiatric services.

Around half of the refugees are supposed to be repatriated to the US, a deal that was nearly nixed by the US in 2017, but only 180 have left so far. Ratwatte urged the Australian Government to consider New Zealand’s offer for rehousing more refugees.

Australia’s refusal of Iranian refugees

Worse still, Iranian refugees are being told that they are unlikely to be repatriated to Australia, thanks to one of Australia’s refugee resettlement programs; the Community Support Program.

According to the Guardian, Iranian refugees are excluded from the programme, which controls over 15% of Australia’s annual refugee places, and it is not clear why.

Iran is one of the most repressive countries in the world, with a long history of oppressing political opposition and the world’s highest execution-per-capita rate. The people fleeing this brutal regime should be taken in by the countries who support human rights.

Posted in Human Rights

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