Time spent in detention doubles for refugees since Abbott

THE average time asylum seekers have been held in Australia's detention centre network has doubled since the Abbott government took office, Immigration Department figures have revealed.

Data on the time asylum seekers are held in detention centres is reportedly monthly, with the latest figures confirming a doubling of average holding between September last year and February.

The reports show the average number of days asylum seekers have been held has jumped from 115 days in September last year, "steadily increasing" to 253 days at the end of February this year.

The figures show at the end of September last year, 87% of detainees had been held for between eight days and six months.

But by February this year, 99% of all asylum seekers held had been detained for between six months and two years, while the total number of people held in the detention network dropped from 6403 to 4699.

The growing amount of time asylum seekers are being held offshore is also likely to add to growing tensions, mental health problems and more possible violence, detention mental health expert Professor Louise Newman told APN.

Prof Newman, a former member of the recently abolished detention expert health advisory group, said the uncertainty and a lack of legal processing systems at offshore facilities at Nauru and Manus Island was already affecting detainees.

"In Nauru at the moment, there basically is no legal system and on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea, there just aren't the systems available to do the processing," she said.

"People have been made aware there are no formal processes for resettlement anywhere, and in the face of indefinite detention in sub-standard conditions, we should only expect more self-harm, protests and violence as their mental condition deteriorates."

While the Australian Government leaves responsibility for processing claims in the hands of Nauru and PNG, Nauru's legal system is in a crisis state, with Chief Justice Geoffrey Eames resigning in protest on Thursday.

He told Guardian Australia the resignation was because he no longer had faith in the country's judicial system or the separation of powers in the small island nation.

His resignation followed political intervention in several asylum seeker claims in the court system, after the Nauruan Government cancelled Eames' visa when he tried to stop the government from deporting the country's only magistrate.

Meanwhile, the situation facing those inside the centres, both on and offshore was entirely predictable, Prof Newman said.

"There are different categories of people, but the research evidence collected over a decade ago in mainland centres showed the longer people are in these sorts of conditions, especially over 12 months, the more likely they face problems," she said.

"I think the bigger question is why are creating another generation of people with problems they will never probably recover from.

"If left in these conditions, these people just become shells of their former selves."

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has repeatedly said the responsibility for processing claims rests with the governments in Nauru and PNG, while the government's policy was to "stop the boats", not process such claims.

He said on Thursday the government's Operation Sovereign Borders had stopped "any people smuggling venture successfully reaching Australia for 84 days".

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