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The number of people with mental illnesses detained in police holding cells in Namibia's coastal towns is on the rise due to a lack of psychiatric wards.

This was revealed by the commanders of police stations at Walvis Bay and Swakopmund when the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence and Security visited the Erongo Region.

The committee was informed that detainees with mental illnesses stay up to three years in police holding cells.

Such detainees languish in discomfort as the holding cells are experiencing problems of overcrowding and a shortage of food, among others.

According to the Swakopmund Station Commander, most of the detainees with mental illnesses end up in holding cells because their families do not know how to deal with them at home.

Moreover, he emphasised that if such detainees are released on bail, there is fear that they could commit the same crime or even worse.

The station commanders say inmates with mental problems wait long to be admitted into the psychiatric ward, which is located in Windhoek and not the Erongo region.

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Renate Rengura