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October 4, 2011

NEVER MIND THE SMOKES, THE GOVERNMENT NEEDS TO KICK THE DETENTION ADDICTION

by refugeeactioncoalitionsydney

“The minor furore that has erupted over cigarette smoking in detention is entirely misplaced,” said Ian Rintoul, from the Refugee Action Coalition.

“The far bigger problem is the government’s mandatory detention habit which is THE major health risk confronting asylum seekers. The cost of the government detention addiction is extraordinary – presently estimated at $772 million for 2010-11. At over $2 milllion a day, it is costing 500 times more that the $4000 a day that detainees are spending on smokes.”

“Far worse is the addiction to prescribed psychiatric drugs and sleeping pills that are simply accepted as a routine feature of the detention centres, so aptly described as ‘factories of mental illness’. Refugees are too often left with life-long mental health problems because of detention. They mental health risk of detention has far greater consequences for their lives than cigarette smoking.

“In many cases, it is the boredom and anxiety of detention that pushes people to begin smoking in detention.

“Asylum seekers have committed no crime and are without any income. They are as entitled as the rest of the community to choose to spend a tiny allocation of their detention points on shampoo, deodorant or cigarettes.

“Allowing asylum seekers to live and work in the community is the far cheaper, healthier and humane option to mandatory detention. The money presently wasted on detention could go to community services needed by refugees and everyone else. It is time the government kicked its very unhealthy detention habit.”

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