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Listen to panel 14 of the RSC's Refugee Voices conference, which took place 24–25 March at St. Anne's College, Oxford

Beyond the Island: experiences of asylum seekers in Australia | Louise Newman


Australia is unique in its articulation and response to the ‘asylum seeker’ issue in the region. Historical anxieties around cultural identity and being a Western colony in Asia have contributed to a discourse of invasion and perceptions of the threat of so called ‘illegal’ arrivals. Current Government policies focus on refusal to accept any asylum seekers on defined Australian soil and transport to other nations such as PNG and Nauru for processing under local legal frameworks.

The indefinite warehousing of torture survivors, children and unaccompanied minors on Christmas Island, close to Indonesia, symbolises an approach to forced migration which constructs the asylum seeker as ‘other’, is dehumanising and where the voice of the dispossessed is not often heard. It is important that the Australian situation is considered in broader discussion of the 'asylum' issue. Australia's response raises core issues about nationhood, borders, experiences of the dispossessed and the construction of otherness.

Louise Newman is Professor of Developmental Psychiatry and Director of the Monash University Centre for Developmental Psychiatry and Psychology. She is a practicing psychiatrist studying the impact of early trauma and development. She has published in the areas of infant mental health, attachment disorders and trauma. 

Responding to mental health vulnerability in Maltese detention centres: the use of psychological support groups as an intervention tool | Julian Caruana and Alexia Rossi


Maltese immigration law means that individuals seeking asylum in this country undergo a period of mandatory detention upon arrival lasting a maximum of 18 months. It is hardly surprising that such a prolonged period of limbo, awash with isolation, uncertainty and degradation, has a negative impact on the mental health of individuals who, in the vast majority, have already experienced multiple personal losses. Research has in fact indicated that the majority of migrants detained in Europe reported deterioration in their mental health during their stay in detention.

This talk explores the impact of psychological support groups provided by non-state actors in Maltese detention centres aimed at educating about mental health issues, as well as providing participants with a space where they can openly discuss their psychological difficulties. It also discusses the challenges and benefits of conducting such a programme, and provides further suggestions on how to address the psychological needs of migrants in closed centres. 

Julian Caruana graduated with a BPsy (Hons) from the University of Malta and a Doctorate in Counselling Psychology from London Metropolitan University, UK. Alexia Rossi graduated with a BPsy (Hons) and a Masters Degree in Human Rights from the University of Malta and a Doctorate in Counselling Psychology from London Metropolitan University, UK. 

The voice of the silenced in the Australian detention system | Devorah Wainer


Australian social and political discourse constructs the asylum-seeking refugee through a hegemonic lens that, according to the ethics of philosopher Emmanuel Levinas (1961) constitutes a normative violence. The asylum seeker is ascribed a group identity, with pejorative intent, as the unwanted ‘other’.

This paper is about re-embodying the flattened, silenced, disconnected and invisible actor living Homo sacer’s ‘bare’ life’ in camps. It opens for conversation methodological ways of knowing, inquiring, writing and healing as a step towards human security as the raison d'être of other global securities. 

Devorah Wainer is an an Honorary Associate at the University of Sydney. Her doctoral research dissertation 'Beyond the Wire: Levinas vis-à-vis Villawood' develops new research methodology, epistemology and theory.

Deportation of Sudanese children by Israel | Mollie Gerver


In 2012, the state of Israel deported approximately 1,200 South Sudanese residing in the country at the time. The government stated that victims of child maltreatment in protective custody could stay in Israel if this was their stated preference, but their parents could not. In the end, all except for one victim of child abuse repatriated with their parents.

This article draws upon the principles of consent in the field of moral analytical philosophy and legal philosophy, and evidence from fieldwork in Israel, South Sudan and Uganda from 2009-2013, to demonstrate that children repatriated without giving their informed consent; government officials selectively listened to the voices of children, and ignored the wider context, to provide a faulty justification for facilitating repatriation.

Mollie Gerver is a PhD Candidate at the London School of Economics, where she researches the ethics of repatriation of refugees, including the roles of third parties, including governmental and non-governmental organisations and private companies, who facilitate repatriation.

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