There are no Australian legislative standards for medical and mental health care in immigration detention.
Described by one judge as a ‘legislative vacuum’, the absence of any legislative standards in an immigration detention context is a national anomaly. By contrast, Australian states and territories have clear legislative standards for medical and mental health care of prisoners.
For example, a maximum-security prisoner in Victoria has the right, guaranteed by law, to reasonable medical care and treatment. If they have a mental illness, they have a specific right to reasonable access to special care and treatment.
An asylum seeker in an Australian immigration detention centre, often facing particular vulnerabilities, has no such rights. The courts have been critical of the lack of any basic protections for medical and mental health care and the failure of the Minister for Home Affairs to rectify this issue.
PIAC’s Asylum Seeker Health Rights Project seeks to fill this gap by using the court system and advocacy strategies to create strong legal protections for asylum seekers in Australia’s immigration detention system.
As part of PIAC’s Asylum Seeker Health Rights Project, we are also identifying best practice models for health standards in detention.
We are reviewing standards for the provision of medical and mental health care in Australian jails and prisons, juvenile justice centres, detained forensic environments and immigration detention facilities in other countries. We are guided by principles contained in international human rights law instruments and developed in international human rights law jurisprudence.
PIAC also works with experts including practitioners and academics in the medical profession and criminal justice field.