In early 2015, the Australian Government re-introduced a temporary protection regime as the means of meeting its international protection obligations to unlawful maritime arrivals. As a result, approximately 30,000 asylum seekers now living in Australia will progressively have their applications for protection determined in the coming years via ‘fast track’ processing arrangements. It is envisaged that while many of the maritime arrivals from countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan will be granted temporary protection, others will be removed.
The paper includes a brief description of Australia’s policies towards maritime asylum seekers who have arrived to Australian territories unlawfully and will contrast the experience of asylum seekers living in the community with those in held detention or transferred to offshore locations.
The paper addresses the implications of the temporary protection policy for service delivery to survivors of torture and trauma. It canvasses the well-documented problems arising from the uncertainty created by temporary protection arrangements for those found to be refugees together with the need for a further assessment of refugee status, adverse emotional stress and mental health impacts, the inability of refugees to achieve family reunion, and the reduced social support compared to refugees with permanent residence
The difficulties for service provision to a highly traumatised group of asylum seekers are highlighted with reference to the clinical, legal and welfare interventions that are required to meet their needs. The particular challenges associated with high suicide risk in some groups and the best means of supporting those asylum seekers that are likely to be removed are addressed.
Co-ordinated efforts on the part of service providers to support survivors of torture and trauma are found to be vital and this is exemplified in the development of a multi-sector temporary protection working group. Crucial engagement with refugee communities as a means of strengthening support to vulnerable groups within those communities is highlighted.
Finally, consideration is given to future prospects for improved rehabilitation services to torture and trauma survivors who face protracted temporary stay at a time when the public policy environment in Australia in relation to asylum seekers and refugees has become increasingly polarised and contested.
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