SYDNEY, July 12 (Xinhua) -- Australia is not pulling its weight in accepting refugees, according to an academic who points to mounting evidence that immigration detention damages the mental health of asylum seekers.
"I don't think we, as a country, are pulling our collective weight," Dr. Zachary Steel from the University of NSW's School of Psychiatry told Australian Associated Press on Monday.
"Australia has a global quota of 13,000 refugees to be resettled on an annual basis, and often that quota is not filled.
"Most European countries accept irregular asylum seekers in very large numbers."
Figures from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees show there were 6,500 applications for asylum received in Australia and New Zealand combined last year, up from 4,200 in 2007.
This was compared to 82,300 in the U.S. and Canada in 2009, and 286,700 in the more affluent countries across Europe.
A total 377,200 people made an asylum claim last year, with 14 percent of these from countries in which Australia has an ongoing involvement - Iraq and Afghanistan.
Dr. Steel said aside from taking an insufficient amount of the global pool of refugees, many of those seeking asylum in Australia would endure lengthy periods in immigration detention.
He said research showed about 30 percent of refugees had a mental health disorder before they faced any period in detention.
"The medical evidence is now pretty overwhelming that there is a direct link between immigration detention and deteriorating mental health," Steel said.
"If this practice continues, the government is directly in breach of their duty of care."