Calls for Australian Government to end its policy of offshore processing

Doctors from the Royal Australasian College of Physicians reiterate their appeal to the Australian Government to end its policies of offshore processing immediately.

The appeal follows media reports on the deteriorating mental and physical health of child detainees at the Nauru immigration detention facility and recent medical transfers of seriously unwell children to Australia.

The duration of offshore processing is now approaching five years.

“The conditions, circumstances, and duration of offshore processing have damaged peoples’ health, particularly the health of children and their families,” said Associate Professor Karen Zwi, a paediatrician and Senior Fellow of the RACP. 

“Evidence tells us that mandatory detention has a long-term mental health impact on children and adults. Our clinical experience is that detention harms children and the negative effects of offshore processing are long lasting and severe. Many of these children have withdrawn completely, they are depressed and suicidal, and they have been damaged by their detention experience.

“Offshore detention and offshore processing are not in any child’s best interests.

“The RACP is concerned that offshore processing detention of children and families seeking asylum contravenes Australia’s responsibilities under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, in particular, the right to health.”

The Convention holds that the best interests of the child should be a primary consideration and that children have rights to health, education, play and participation in decisions affecting their lives, as well as rights to protection from physical and mental violence, injury, abuse, neglect and maltreatment.  

The RACP’s Refugee and Asylum Seeker Health Position Statement sets out a strong evidence-based opposition to immigration detention, particularly of children, and the need to ensure access to quality health care. The Position Statement has been endorsed by 14 Medical and Nursing Colleges and Peak Health organisations across Australasia.

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