20 Jan 2004

Lawyer needed for asylum seekers' review on Nauru says observer

5:15 pm on 20 January 2004

There's been a call for the 248 asylum seekers on Nauru to be represented by a lawyer during the review process recently announced by Australia.

Dutch psychiatrist, Maarten Dormaar, who spent four months on Nauru assessing peoples' mental health, also says an independent organisation like Amnesty International should oversee the process.

He says if the review is carried out by unofficial interpreters selected by Australian immigration officials, as it was the first time, then there's little hope for those who have been detained for more than two years.

Mr Dormaar says the process was deeply flawed the first time people applied for refugee status, so he wants changes this time through.

"Under the supervision of independent organisations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, guidelines should be made and also checked whether they have been followed - so that these kinds of organisations like Human Rights Watch have a right to check if these guidelines really have been followed."

Mr Dormaar, who remains in contact with the asylum seekers, says many are continuing to show signs of depression and anxiety attacks.

And, he says the more than 90 children detained in the camps are likely to suffer long term mental health issues as they watch their parents deteriorate.