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Children and young people in immigration detention

Dudley, Michaela,b; Steel, Zacharyc; Mares, Sarahd,e; Newman, Louisef

Current Opinion in Psychiatry: July 2012 - Volume 25 - Issue 4 - p 285–292
doi: 10.1097/YCO.0b013e3283548676
CHILD AND ADOLESCENT PSYCHIATRY: Edited by Richard Williams and Philip Hazell

Purpose of review This article reviews evidence about the impact of immigration detention and other restrictive immigration policies on the mental health of children, young people and the adults who care for them. We review the implications of this for clinicians attempting to assess or work with incarcerated child and adult refugees and asylum seekers.

Recent findings There are increasing numbers of adults and children seeking asylum across the globe and many nations use incarceration and other harsh and interceptive immigration practices. There is mounting evidence of the psychological harm associated with detention of already vulnerable adults and children. Australia is used as a case study.

Summary Clinicians are required to consider the intersection of mental health assessment and treatment with human rights violations, and the impact of restrictive immigration policies, not only on asylum seekers and refugees but also on clinicians, clinical practice and professional ethics.

aSydney Children's and Prince of Wales Hospitals

bSchool of Psychiatry, University of NSW, Sydney

cPsychiatry Research and Teaching Unit, School of Psychiatry, University of NSW, Australia

dCentre for Child Development and Education, Menzies School of Health Research, Northern Territory

eRedbank House, Western Sydney

fCentre for Developmental Psychiatry and Psychology, C/- Monash Medical Centre, 246 Clayton Road, Clayton, Victoria, Australia

Correspondence to Dr Michael Dudley, Adolescent Service, Prince of Wales Hospital, Randwick NSW 2031, Australia. Tel: +61 2 9382 4347; fax: +61 2 9382 4358; e-mail:

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.