Objectives: To determine the impact of the Australian provisions for temporary rather than permanent protection for asylum seekers found to be genuine refugees.
Design and setting: A comparison of the mental health of Persian-speaking refugees with temporary (n = 49) versus permanent (n = 67) protection visas attending an early intervention program in Sydney, New South Wales, 2002-03.
Measures: Standard measures were used to assess past trauma, detention experiences, postmigration stresses, symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression and functional impairment.
Results: The two groups had experienced similar levels of past trauma and persecution. Nevertheless, holders of temporary protection visas (TPVs) returned higher scores on three psychiatric symptom measures (P < 0.001). Multivariate analyses showed that TPV status was the strongest predictor of anxiety, depression and particularly PTSD. Further analyses suggested that, for TPV holders, experience of past stresses in detention in Australia and ongoing living difficulties after release contributed to adverse psychiatric outcomes.
Conclusions: The sequence of postmigration stresses experienced by TPV holders appears to impact adversely on their mental health.