Asylum seekers represent a highly traumatized group with experiences of systematic oppression, loss, displacement, and exposure to violence. Around the world many are viewed with distrust and anxiety. The Australian response to asylum seekers is one that has used prolonged detention with significant negative impact on mental health. This has prompted much social debate and the involvement of clinicians and researchers in advocating for the human rights of asylum seekers. This article reviews the impact of mandatory prolonged detention on the mental health of asylum seekers and the significance of this for recovery and adaption. It concludes that the mandatory detention of high-risk and oppressed groups compounds trauma, with a potential long-term negative impact on mental health.