Refugee and Asylum Seeker Health

Why is Refugee and Asylum Seeker Health a priority topic for the RACP?

Current Australian immigration policies mandate the detention of refugees and asylum seekers who have arrived by boat in Australia without a visa.

Held in detention facilities on and offshore, where access to quality healthcare is intermittent, the detention of asylum seekers has severe physical and mental health impacts.

Refugees and asylum seekers resettled in Australia and New Zealand face additional  barriers to specialist health care.

Our physicians and paediatricians believe these policies are fundamentally wrong, unethical and penalise already traumatised people, particularly children, many of whom are fleeing conflict or persecution.

What is the College doing?

Our Fellows and trainees have taken a strong leadership stance on this issue, and repeatedly voiced their public opposition to Immigration Detention.

The RACP, RACGP and RANZCP have jointly written to Immigration Minister Peter Dutton and Health Ministers Greg Hunt, David Gillespie and Ken Wyatt, highlighting our concerns that asylum seekers on Manus Island are reportedly in poor health and unable to access the healthcare needed and calling for attention to a number of matters – read the letter.

Our paediatricians have organised highly visible protests across Australia. Lead paediatric Fellows continue to speak out in the media to advocate on behalf of individual asylum seekers and refugees, in some cases running the risk of being prosecuted themselves for breaching the secrecy provision of Australia’s Border Force Act. We have made multiple representations on the issue to the Federal Government.

The College’s Refugee and Asylum Seeker Health Position Statement sets out our strong evidence-based opposition to immigration detention, particularly of children. It has been endorsed by 14 medical colleges and peak health organisations across Australasia.

Its four key areas of focus are:

  • access to healthcare
  • health assessments and screening processes
  • long-term health in the community
  • asylum seekers in detention

Kids off Nauru

The RACP has signed onto the Kids Off Nauru campaign, urging the Australian Parliament to support the immediate transfer all refugee and asylum seeker children and their families from Nauru to Australia for health reasons. Children and their families need an urgent assessment in a specialist tertiary level child health facility, where their medical, developmental and social-emotional (psychiatric) health can be assessed and treated in accordance with specialist recommendations.

We are encouraging members to write to or meet with your local Member of Parliament (MP) to advocate on this issue. MPs will be in their local electorate from 24 September to 12 October, this is an opportune time to speak with your MP directly.

Please use the template letter and Refugee and Asylum Seeker health position statement when writing to your MP. The Tips for meeting with MPs and RACP Advocacy Framework can assist with productive meetings. If you do meet with your local MP, please let us know at

Get active on social media from 7am, Thursday 27 October. Use the social media kit and poster to join the RACP's calls for #doctorsforasylumseekers

Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee inquiry into the Migration Amendment (Repairing Medical Transfers) Bill 2019

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) provided a submission on 16 August in response to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee inquiry into the Migration Amendment (Repairing Medical Transfers) Bill 20191 . The effect of this Bill is to repeal the Home Affairs Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) Act 2019 (known as ‘Medevac Legislation’2). The submission focuses on the positive impact of the Medevac Legislation and argues that the Medevac Legislation should not be repealed.

On 3 July, the legislation to repeal Medevac was referred to a Senate Inquiry to be undertaken by the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee. The RACP was named by the Selection of Bills Committee as a key organisation to be called upon to provide evidence to the Senate Inquiry. 

The Senate Inquiry hearings took place on Monday 26 August in Canberra.  Prof Niki Ellis was appointed as the College representative and provided evidence alongside representatives from both the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) and Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP).  Prof Ellis ably represented the College’s position on the Bill, in the face of some robust questioning from members of the Committee. The transcript can be read here.

Recent submissions, position statements and media

How can I contribute my expertise?

RACP Trainees and Physicians need to see Represent Your Profession, email or use the online contact form.

More information

Read published RACP policies, position statements or submissions by searching the Policy and Advocacy Library

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