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Q&A: This Refugee Confronted The Man Behind Sovereign Borders About Suicide Rates

The questioner said suicides are a 'direct result' of prolonged uncertainty.

10/10/2016 11:04 PM AEDT | Updated 11/10/2016 12:36 AM AEDT
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Shukufa Tahiri came to Australia as a refugee in 2006.

The co-architect of Operation Sovereign Borders, Jim Molan, spent Monday night's Q&A program defending the controversial immigration policy he helped the Federal Government implement from the other panellists.

However, it was a question from audience member and refugee Shukufa Tahiri -- who claimed there has been six cases of suicide and self-harm from asylum seekers on temporary protection visas in her Australian Hazara community -- which left Molan slightly bewildered.

"A kind of endemic is unfolding itself before the nation's eyes -- detention, temporary protection visas, lack of family reunion, citizenship delays, lack of certainty, prolonged delays in processing, are driving people into self harm and suicide," Tahiri said.

"I think that the rate of suicide and the rate of self harm is a direct result of the policies that are being imposed on [refugees]," Tahiri said.

"In our community alone in the past 12 months there have been six cases of suicide and self-harm."

The refugee asked Molan whether placing 30,000 asylum seekers on temporary protection visas was worth stopping the boats, claiming the move -- along with offshore processing -- has left thousands of families in despair as they cannot resettle properly or take control of their lives, given their uncertain future.

Molan, who co-authored the Coalition's offshore processing policy before the 2013 election, would not acknowledge a connection between the two issues, instead suggesting any mental health issues were the result of refugees' traumatic pasts in their home countries.

He said temporary protection visas were vital to an effective policy.

"I have done this from first principles and gone through and produced something which works. There is a cost but it works. It has saved lives and it has restored the faith of the Australian people in their migration policy, which is 200,000 people per year, 192,000 people per year."

On Monday night, Molan was joined by panellists including Shen Narayanasamy from No Business in Abuse and the #LetThemStay campaign and refugee and entreprenuer Huy Truong as the panel debated Australia's immigration policies and public attitudes towards Muslim migrants.

Molan told the Q&A audience that Operation Sovereign Borders was a "success" -- despite being widely condemned by international humanitarian organisations, including the United Nations and Amnesty International -- and refused other panellists' suggestions that a softer approach would be effective at stopping deaths at sea.

Despite this, when challenged by refugee advocate Narayanasamy following a heated discussion to attend a summit to discuss alternative offshore processing policies -- and to bring Malcolm Turnbull with him -- his response was "absolutely".

Another questioner, who is an ESL teacher, said some of her students who are asylum seekers are living in fear their temporary protection visas will end while they are completing their final year of school.

Panellist Father Frank Brennan, who is a Jesuit priest and Professor of Law, was treated to a round of applause from the Q&A audience when he commented that Australia owes migrants of war more than the average migrant.

"Whenever we commit troops to war in places like Afghanistan, we Australians should then extend special privilege to those who flee persecution from those theatres of war," Brennan said.

"We should do it for at least twice the length of time that we leave our troops there because our troops are there in what we think to be the national interest so we should look to your interests as well."

If you need help in a crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For further information about depression contactbeyondBlue on 1300224636 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.

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