The study found that current Australian policy and practices lack adequate consideration of health and welfare issues for seriously ill asylum seekers at all stages of the asylum process. In addition, it found that the asylum process in Australia contributes to the deterioration of the mental and physical health of those being processed. This impact on health is linked to the processes themselves, as well as to the specific limitations placed on asylum seekers’ access to health care and basic resources.
This strong association between ill health and the asylum process in Australia is counterproductive to a smooth transition from the end of the asylum assessment process to either return or residency. This association has significant implications when considering the practical and moral dilemmas involved in removal. It also introduces greater levels of responsibility for the future health of asylum seekers in countries of return.
Australia must ensure its practices, policies and legislation are not detrimental to the health and wellbeing of asylum seekers. Removal should be a last resort once all opportunities to enable voluntary return have been exhausted. In addition, plans to implement removal should be reconsidered for seriously ill individuals who have no prospect of ongoing care on return.
Refugee Health Research Centre, La Trobe University 2007