The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has joined with other peak medical organisations to call on the Federal Government to act urgently in addressing the health and wellbeing of asylum seekers and refugees in Australia’s offshore detention, with the first priority to immediately remove seriously unwell children and their families from Nauru.
Chair of the RACGP Refugee Health Network Dr Kate Walker said refugee and asylum seeker children on Nauru need urgent tertiary level paediatric care.
“The deteriorating mental and physical health of these children, from five years in the regional processing centre of Nauru, has reached a crisis point,” Dr Walker said.
“The health issues caused by prolonged time in the regional processing centre cannot be addressed while they remain in Nauru, regardless of the extent or quality of services available.
“The trauma experienced on Nauru by the children and their families is additional to their traumatic refugee experiences. Self-harm, witnessed self-harm, chronic suicidal ideation and lack of long-term settlement opportunity impacts the whole family.”
Dr Walker said parents on Nauru were unable to care for their children due to their own poor mental health.
“The impact on the children’s development is likely to be life-long,” Dr Walker said.
“These children’s medical and psychiatric conditions are unlikely to improve while they remain on Nauru. Any delay will cause further deterioration.
“As doctors, we believe there is a duty of care towards these children held on Nauru under Australian jurisdiction. This is a humanitarian issue not a political one.”
Dr Walker said the time to conduct inquiries and investigate was finished.
“These unwell refugee and asylum seeker children and their families require a therapeutic environment, preferably in Australia, where they can receive the specialist care they need,” Dr Walker said.
“Their long term recovery is dependant on viable long term settlement options.”
Dr Walker said the RACGP was willing to provide expert input and support to assist the Australian Government to urgently address this unfolding Humanitarian crisis.
The RACGP joined forces with the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP), the Australasian College of Emergency Medicine (ACEM), and the Australian Medical Students Association (AMSA) last week for the #doctorsforasylumseekers social media campaign.