Health standards ‘legislative vacuum’

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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, in every Australian State and Territory jail and prison there are clear legislative standards for medical and mental health care for persons in criminal custody. 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 by the Minister of Immigration and Border Protection 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.

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