Prolonged Detention - ‘State-Sanctioned Child Abuse’

The morality of processing asylum seekers offshore has been under fire for a long time, and even more so now with the anticipated return of Baby Asha to detention in Nauru after she sustained serious burns there. According to the national president of the Australian Medical Association (AMA), detention for long periods of time is “state-sanctioned child abuse” which is “pulling apart the moral fabric of the country.” The AMA has recently put forward a number of recommendations to address their concerns, including forming an independent panel of medical experts to oversee and report on the health of asylum seekers in detention.

There has also been talk recently of Australian medical professionals boycotting immigration centres to prevent the return of asylum seekers to Nauru. The AMA has rejected this idea, claiming that this would draw resources away from asylum seekers in need. However, a former International Health and Medical Services (‘IHMS’) officer has encouraged workers to stop being complicit when they see abuse occurring and instead maintain ethical conduct, despite risking punishment for doing so under the Border Force Act. The current Australian Border Force Act, it is an offence for an “entrusted person” to make a record of or to disclose “protected information.” This includes any information obtained by the person in their capacity as an employee.

This policy is at odds with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child because it deters offences from being reported. A number of people in detention have committed self-harm or attempted suicide. Registered nurse, Alanna Maycock discussed her visit to Nauru, claiming that she had witnessed a man being assaulted and that she spoke to a woman who had been menstruating for two months but who had not been referred for medical care. There appears to be a consensus within the community that greater transparency is undeniably needed.

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