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Media release

RACGP says ‘enough is enough’ to asylum seekers’ health deterioration

31 July 2014

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is concerned by the prolonged detention of asylum seekers, maintaining the Government has failed to uphold its ethical obligations in accordance with international law and human rights standards.   

The RACGP is strongly opposed to the policy of restrictive mandatory detention, in particular the detention of children, and calls on the Government to protect these vulnerable individuals and their families without delay.

RACGP President, Dr Liz Marles said a standard of living that supports health and wellbeing, including access to appropriate medical services, is a fundamental human right.

“As the peak professional body representing Australian GPs, it is our moral responsibility to advocate for the health outcomes of vulnerable populations.

“The Australian Government must treat asylum seekers as a humanitarian rather than a political issue.

“The majority of those in detention have unique mental and physical healthcare needs as a consequence of the circumstances they have fled and these are further exacerbated by a prolonged period of uncertainty in detention.

“The primary care staff in these facilities, many of whom are GPs, are continuing to work in ethically challenging environments.  

“As a consequence, GPs may not be able to uphold the appropriate clinical and ethical standards of quality patient care, because of the restrictions of these settings.

“The RACGP has a responsibility to advocate for these GPs as well as for those who are detained,” said Dr Marles.

The RACGP is a member of the Mental Health Professionals Association which stands firmly united in its concern about the effect of prolonged detention on patients’ mental health.

“There is a substantial body of evidence, which demonstrates that detention, particularly prolonged detention causes negative physical and mental health consequences for asylum seekers.

“We know there are more humane ways of processing those who arrive on our shores seeking asylum and it is our duty to ensure these people, particularly children, are treated ethically and with respect.

“The act of holding children in restrictive detention must cease as an urgent priority and the RACGP recommends the standard model of care be one of community residence where families are kept together and they have access to appropriate and priority medical services.

“The RACGP is urging the Government to action immediate policy reform and increase efforts to improve the speed and efficiency of refugee status assessment for all asylum seekers,” said Dr Marles.

The RACGP calls for the establishment of an independent mechanism for the oversight and review of healthcare service provision in all detention facilities and processing centres and remains committed to ensuring the most vulnerable patients, regardless of their status or circumstances, are protected and treated equitably.

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners

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