3 Feb 2004

Australian political leader says many child asylum seekers on Nauru mentally unwell

8:33 am on 3 February 2004

An Australian political party leader, says, after a visit to Nauru, that many child asylum seekers being detained on the island are taking medication for depression and anxiety.

Senator Andrew Bartlett, the leader of the Australian Democrats, visited the island last week and he says mental illness is the biggest problem for the 284 asylum seekers, including 93 children.

And he blames the Australian Government saying it is a direct consequence of Canberra's insistence on keeping the asylum seekers there without any hope.

He says the Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone should visit Nauru to see the situation for herself.

"She has to acknowledge that it is Australia's responsibility and a good way of doing that is going there ,not just to check out the facilities and what the money is spent on, but even more importantly to meet some of the detainees, hear their stories and hear their situation because it is easy to forget in the political debate that we are actually talking about human lives here."