This article argues that community detention, when underpinned by appropriate opportunities and support, comprises a far more humane and effective model for asylum seekers than closed detention.
Moved by the plight of vulnerable asylum-seeking minors being held in detention centres, a group of Australian advocates lobbied successfully for the implementation of community detention as a viable, humane alternative, giving asylum seekers an opportunity to engage in a more meaningful existence while awaiting the outcome of their asylum application.
The experience of being held in detention centres – ‘held detention’ – has had a negative and long-lasting impact on the mental health and well-being of many of the men, women and children seeking asylum in Australia. Factors such as the deprivation of freedom, a sense of injustice, isolation from the broader community, growing feelings of demoralisation and hopelessness, increased refugee status determination processing times, risk of deportation and bewildering legal processes have all contributed to mental health problems and increasing anxiety and depression in detainees. These conditions have led to suicides, self-harm, protests and behavioural breakdowns.