A refugee expert says Australia lags other first-world countries in processing asylum seekers.
Over the past few days, the number of detainees taking part in a rooftop protest at the Northern Immigration Detention Centre in Darwin has grown to 21.
Some of the men are Afghan Hazaras, a minority group of Shiite Muslims.
Professor William Maley from the Australian National University says he can understand their frustration, given many have been in detention for close to two years.
“Australia is virtually the only country which has mandatory, non-reviewable detention,” he said.
“In many countries it becomes pretty clear, pretty quickly that people are highly likely to be found to be refugees.
“Locking them up for a prolonged period of time only runs the risk of doing severe damage to their mental health, which all of us end up having to pay for in the long run.”
Professor Maley has spent three decades writing books on Afghanistan.
He says Afghan Hazaras are a minority group driven out of the country when the Taliban took hold.
Most have witnessed atrocities, he says.
“In June 2010 in the province of Uruzgan, which is the province where Australian troops are deployed, there were 10 Hazaras captured by the Taliban and decapitated,” he said.
Professor Maley says Hazaras comprise the majority of Afghan asylum seekers in Australia.