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Let the children go — advocacy for children in detention by the Royal Australasian College of Physicians

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Regardless of other considerations, the health perspective requires that the detention of asylum seeker children must stop now

Nelson Mandela’s words, “there can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children”, should give Australian immigration policymakers pause.1 The evidence is in, and it’s irrefutable — Australia’s detention of asylum seekers is harmful to both adults and children, and children are often scarred for life by their experiences.2,3 Detained children experience significant language and developmental delays, sleep and behaviour disorders, mental health conditions (such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicidality), and inadequately treated physical health conditions at greater rates than refugee children who are not detained.24The recent Australian Human Rights Commission report, The forgotten children, found that 85% of parents and children reported negative effects on their mental health while in detention. In the same report, clinician-rated assessments of children found 34% had mental health problems that would warrant referral to hospital-based outpatient mental health services for…