The Asylum Seekers Unit in Mount Carmel Hospital is “completely substandard”, with a total lack of activities or opportunities to socialise and at risk of overcrowding, according to the Jesuit Refugee Service.

“The environment is undignified,” JRS psychologist Julian Caruana said this morning.

“The ward consists of small rooms with only a bed and a toilet bowl. The flushing can only be activated from outside and migrants have to ask a passing guard to flush it for them.

“Many migrants being treated for mental health problems ask to be sent to detention because the conditions are better.”

Dr Caruana was speaking at the launch of a JRS report titled ‘Care in Captivity? An analysis of the provision of care for detained asylum seekers experiencing mental health problems.’

The report also highlights the irregular availability of interpreters, problems ensuring continuity of care in detention and lengthy procedures for release from detention on vulnerability grounds.

JRS called upon the government to integrate the provision of health care services in detention centres within the governmental primary health care system, thus ensuring proper follow up in detention and beyond.

It also urged the upgrading of the existing psychiatric inpatient facilities and ensuring that the focus is on providing therapy rather than on security.

The government should guarantee the availability of trained interpreters to allow mental healthcare professionals to work unhindered – a service which is currently offered solely by JRS.

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