Nauru Sri Lankans show first signs of mental health deterioration

Project SafeCom Inc.
P.O. Box 364
Western Australia 6312
Phone: 0417 090 130

Nauru Sri Lankans show first signs of mental health deterioration

Media Release
Thursday July 5, 2007 8:15am WST
For Immediate Release
No Embargoes

"From a letter intended for publication by the 82 Sri Lankans held on Nauru, and written to ask the Australian public for help with their now seeming "indefinite detention", it becomes clear that their mental health is now starting to become a risk", WA Rights group Project SafeCom said this morning.

Project SafeCom spokesman Jack H Smit, who is also a university-trained social worker and counsellor, expressed concern about the letter, received this week by email from the Sri Lankans.

The letter was accompanied by some photographs showing the Sri Lankans holding and erecting a World Refugee Week banner on the grounds of the Nauru detention centre. World Refugee Week in Australia this year was the week of 17 to 23 June, spanning the United Nations World Refugee Day on June 20.

MEDIA USE: Both the letter and the full-size photographs are posted to the Project SafeCom website at

"Without a doubt the most significant phrase used by the Sri Lankans in the letter expresses the onset of long-term traumatisation and the start of desperation, and the now familiar notion of 'loss of hope' - the phrase used being 'we now live with indefinite expectation...'," Mr Smit said.

"Not only that," Mr Smit said. "The Sri Lankans also clearly express that they feel deceived - using this term - by having been brought to Nauru, while they feel very clearly that their asylum applications were clear, valid under the terms of the United Nations Refugee Convention, and had considerable grounds in terms of their fears for persecution. The Sri Lankans spell out some of the things that happen in Sri Lankans in detail.

"This letter should ring the alarm bells of any mental health worker or psychiatrist. While the construction of the letter is very clear and leaves no doubt about the Sri Lankans' feeling about how they have been treated by Australian authorities, the letter also shows in the use of the one sentence about 'indefinite expectation, the first sign of how Australia's very process of refugee determination erodes normal people's mental health - and this is separate from the fact that the Sri Lankans also express in very mild and civil terms their feelings about having been deceived by Australia's Pacific solution." Mr Smit concluded.

Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
[phone number posted]

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