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Nauru detention unsafe for children: Senate inquiry

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Doctors have backed a Senate report that calls for the faster removal of children from the Nauru detention facility.

The Senate Select Committee found conditions in the centre were “not adequate, appropriate, or safe for the asylum seekers detained there”.

In a speech to medical students, AMA President Professor Brian Owler expressed his concern for the physical and mental health of immigration detainees, particularly children.

“The AMA has been vocal about Australia’s human rights obligations in relation to asylum seekers and refugees,” Professor Owler said.  

“We have an obligation to ensure that they have access to health care that meets Australian standards at a minimum.”

The report also recommends ‘Australia increase the transparency of conditions and operations at the Regional Processing Centre’ by negotiating increased access for the Human Rights Commission and by the media.

“The medical profession has protested strongly about the Border Force Act and its draconian measures against doctors who speak out about the health care of asylum seekers.  The AMA continues to advocate for an independent panel of doctors to inspect detention centres and report to Parliament,” the AMA President said.

Professor Owler acknowledged the Federal Government had already significantly reduced the number of children in detention but warned that every remaining child was unsafe.

“There are still too many being held and we need to get those children out and into a safe environment in the community.”

The Committee was convened by five Senators from three major parties; two Labor, two Liberals, and one Greens.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton rejected the report as a political witch hunt, pointing out the Committee is dominated by Labor and the Greens but has also indicated that he’s open to considering the recommendations.

“I’m happy to consider any of the recommendations which provide for a better outcome for people,” Minister Dutton said.

Odette Visser