In a speech on the current migration crisis this week, the UN High Commissioner singled out Australia’s poor treatment of refugees stating: “I am also dismayed that in Australia, people on boats intercepted at sea are sent to detention centres where conditions are inadequate.”
Earlier this week, in an important addition to the increasing chorus of voices protesting mandatory detention, The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) released a new Refugee and Asylum Seeker Health Policy and Position Statement. The new documents aim to ensure access to quality care and improved health outcomes for refugees and asylum seekers in detention and in the community.
In a press release RACP President, Professor Talley stated:
“Our Fellows have been inside the detention facilities. We have treated refugees and asylum seekers during their detention and after their release into the community. These people are not numbers, they are our patients. As physicians, we are duty bound to speak on behalf of our patients – especially since their human rights are increasingly seen as optional.”
“For over two decades, successive Australian Governments of all sides of politics have enforced a mandatory detention policy. The failing is bipartisan, and the health impacts on asylum seekers and refugees over that time are well documented,” Professor Talley said.
These costly policies are breaching human rights and causing significant harm, while denying appropriate health care. They are simply inhumane.”
The RACP are calling for changes in four key areas:
- Ending detention
- Increasing access to health care
- Comprehensive assessment upon arrival
- Maximising support to optimise health including education, language, employment and housing.
The RACP released this video on their policy and position statement as part of the launch.
In relation to those asylum seekers currently in detention the RACP are calling on the Australian government to:
- Release all asylum seekers from detention and expedite the processing of their refugee claims in the community in order to reduce uncertainty, the negative impact on their physical and mental health, and expenditure
- Abolish mandatory detention and assess refugee claims while people are in community-based placements.
- End detention on Manus Island and Nauru and urgently establish durable settlement solutions for those people who are found to be refugees.
- Ensure people receive flexible casework support after they are released from detention to facilitate access to health, mental health, education, early childhood, housing, welfare and employment services.
- Release all asylum seeker children and their families from held detention and expedite the processing of their refugee claims in the community.
- Ensure children and families are not separated during the refugee claim process or as a consequence of other operational processes, such as medical transfers, including transfers for maternity care.
- Develop an integrated national policy framework for the guardianship of unaccompanied refugee and asylum seeker children.
- Enable legislative reform and establish a process to appoint an independent guardian for each unaccompanied child. The guardian should not hold responsibility for the child’s migration status and should be able to act as an independent advocate for the child’s best interests.
- Establish an independent health advisory body with expertise in the areas listed above to oversee health service provision for asylum seekers, and agreement to consult with the relevant Colleges and peak bodies across the medical, nursing and allied health discipline.
- Ensure the advisory group’s terms of reference and recommendations are made public in the interests of transparency.
- Ensure the advisory group has access to adequate longitudinal data to monitor access to health services and physical and mental health outcomes, and that data are available for academic review.
- Establish agreed timelines for the Department of Immigration and Border Protection to consider and respond to recommendations arising from the independent advisory body.
The full policy and position statements are available here.