People seeking asylum often face long periods of stress and uncertainty as they wait for their claims to be processed. A group of asylum seekers at Darwin’s Wickham Point detention centre are knitting clothes for Australian charities as a way to improve their mental wellbeing.
Gan Mei Wah is an asylum seeker living at the detention centre and is the project organiser. She told The Guardian they want to use their time in detention to help Australians in need.
“In this lengthy visa-processing period we have no freedom but we want to devote our skills to contribute to society,” she said.
“It also is good thing to do for our life [while we] stay in detention. Most of us have spent over two years in detention.”
The group spend approximately one or two hours a day crocheting, knitting and sewing clothes and toys.
“We hope we can give away the stuff we made for older people and kids and let them know they’re not alone. We also feel happy for that,” Ms Gan said.
According to The Guardian, Ms Gan has been detained for almost two years. Under the Turnbull government, the average onshore detention time has soared to an all-time high of 445 days.
Approximately 14.9 per cent of people in onshore detention suffer from severe mental distress. This is nearly four times higher than the general Australian population. A further 14.5 per cent are reported to have moderate levels of mental distress. The rate of mental distress increases with the duration of detention.
In the Shelter from the Storm statement adopted at the 14th Assembly last year, the Uniting Church reaffirmed its belief that asylum seekers “must not be subjected to mandatory and indefinite detention”.
“Asylum seekers should only be detained for short pre-determined periods of time for the sole purpose of conducting health, identity and security checks,” the statement read.
“A maximum limit (7 days unless there are exceptional circumstances) on the length of time an asylum seeker can be detained should be set in law.”
The Church also expressed concern at the conditions in Australia’s onshore and offshore detention centres.
“Asylum seekers in detention must be treated with dignity and respect at all times,” it said
“Detention facilities should be of a standard that ensures people’s wellbeing and that their psychological, social and health needs are addressed.”
Image by uncoolbob via Flickr.