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'Delay in processing refugee visas is causing mental health problems'

Queensland Police inspect a sunken vessel, believed to have been carrying Vietnamese asylum seekers Source: AAP

The Human Rights Commission and mental health experts continue to raise concerns about the applications of thousands of asylum seekers who arrived in Australia by boat. They say differences in assessing asylum claims for this group are causing ongoing mental health issues.

The Human Rights Commission has criticised delays facing a group of 30,000 asylum seekers who arrived in Australia by boat over an almost two year period.

The asylum seekers were barred from making an application for protection for up to four years following their arrivals from 2012, prompting concerns from mental health experts about their condition.

Human Rights Commissioner Edward Santow says delays in processing their cases have dragged on.

"While people are waiting for their matter in court they're often treated as ineligible for any kind of assistance. And so that means that people can be in huge poverty and distress while they pursue their legal right to go through the legal system to test their claims," he says. 

Due to a number of changes to legal and policy settings since 2012, asylum seekers who arrived by boat are assessed differently from other groups of asylum seekers.

Questions about how people are assessed to be genuine refugees have been raised at a conference in Sydney of Australian and international legal experts working in the area of refugee law.

The Coalition government termed this group the ‘legacy caseload’ and introduced exceptional legislative restrictions to their eligibility for protection visas. 

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