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Concerns over mental health impact of deportation

Concerns over mental health impact of deportation on NZ nationals

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) is renewing its call to the Australian Government to re-assess its deportation policies and practices when it comes to New Zealand nationals.

The RANZCP President-Elect Dr Vinay Lakra expressed serious concerns about the impact of this policy on the mental health and wellbeing of the affected individuals and their support systems.

‘We have heard the concerns of psychiatrists from both Australia and New Zealand about the increasing numbers of patients who are being, or have been, deported,’ said Dr Lakra.

‘Psychiatrists are alarmed that the current policy, as it is being implemented, is detrimental to the health and rehabilitative needs of affected individuals.

‘This applies to New Zealand nationals living in Australia with mental illness who may no longer have any ties to their country of origin,’ said Dr Lakra.

The 2014 changes to Australian migration legislation provides for the cancellation of an Australian visa for anyone sentenced to 12 or more months in jail.

‘We are urging the Australian Government to make these decisions only after considering the broader implications this could have on the mental health of the individual, including the likely effect of deportation on treatment outcomes.

‘Many of these individuals have complex mental health needs, including psychiatric and substance use disorders, as well as associated physical and psychosocial comorbidities, which are being exacerbated by their detention and deportation experiences,’ said Dr Lakra.

The issue of the deportation of Kiwis from Australia was raised yesterday by the New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on the eve of her meeting with Prime Minister Scott Morrison in Melbourne this morning.

Chair of the RANZCP Faculty of Forensic Psychiatry, Dr Justin Barry-Walsh, emphasized the significant impact deportation can have on an individual’s mental health and wellbeing.

‘The individuals who come in contact with the criminal justice system are more likely to experience mental health or substance use issues,’ said Dr Barry-Walsh

‘These issues are often exacerbated by experiences of detention and deportation as it interrupts treatment and recovery schedules as well as, more often than not, separates them from their support system.

‘Studies have consistently shown that the treatment for mental health and substance use issues is an effective way to decrease recidivism in mentally ill and substance dependent offenders and the current deportation policy does not allow for treatment to be given the chance.’

‘We also note the disproportionate impact this policy has on Indigenous people and children.’

‘Many Māori who live in Australia have relocated with their whānau and are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of deportation as it involves the loss of their entire familial support system,’ said Dr Barry-Walsh.

The RANZCP believes government consideration of the mental health of the individuals prior to the deportation process, including the likely effect of deportation on that individual’s chances of successful treatment and recovery, is likely to produce better outcomes in the long term for the individuals concerned, their families and the community.

For all other expert mental health information visit Your Health in Mind, the RANZCP’s consumer health information website.


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