Liberals step up refugee campaign

MORE asylum seekers have arrived on boats since Labor came to power in 2007 than people live in the remote community of Alice Springs, opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said on Tuesday.

The number of asylum seekers arriving by boat reached more than 30,000 (Alice Springs' population was 27,589 in the most recent, 2011, census) and Mr Morrison sought to paint that figure as an impending human flood.

''We now have an average of more than 2000 people turning up every single month,'' he said. ''That's the equivalent of a full QE2 turning up at Christmas Island every single month under this government. The rate of arrivals is almost four times higher in Labor's second term than it was in their first term.''

But as pressure on the detention network grows, Australia's medical community is warning the government of the dangers of detaining asylum seekers for long periods of time.

A parliamentary committee will on Friday examine the need for an independent panel of medical and psychological experts to report on the conditions of people detained on Nauru and Manus Island.

On September 21 Immigration Minister Chris Bowen released the agreement with the International Health and Medical Services, which showed that when Nauru and Manus Island reached full capacity, there would be a maximum of 33.5 health staff on Manus, including two psychologists and five mental health nurses, but no on-site counsellors and only a part-time psychiatrist.

Nauru would have up to 44 health staff when it reached capacity, including two counsellors, two psychologists and a part-time psychiatrist, also with access to the telephone service.

The Australian Psychological Society said it was ''extremely concerned at reports of proposed low staffing levels at the offshore detention centres''.

''At both sites it was proposed detainees could have access to a telephone counselling service,'' the society said. ''We hope we have been misinformed.''

A group comprising leading medical associations, including the Public Health Association of Australia and Royal Australasian College of Physicians, also supported independent oversight of the centres.

''It needs to be clear that independent monitoring of on and offshore detention health services is a risk management strategy for the [immigration] department.''

The committee will report in December.

Meanwhile, the Greens and Mr Morrison called for Afghan interpreters who helped Australian troops to be given resettlement priority in Australia.

This story Liberals step up refugee campaign first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.