Doctors issue demands on asylum seekers

  • 09/20/2019

The nation’s peak medical organisation has urged doctors to stand their ground in the face of any attempt to forcibly remove a one-year-old asylum seeker from a Brisbane hospital.


As Immigration Minister Peter Dutton on Sunday confirmed the child, known as baby Asha, could still be returned to Nauru, Australian Medical Association president Brian Owler warned her forced removal would have represented a point of no return in the asylum-seeker debate.

“There is an absolute ethical, not to mention moral, obligation to that patient who is in their care,” Prof Owler said.

“It’s a line that cannot be crossed. If crossed, there is no return.”

Mr Dutton on Sunday said the family had been offered community detention, but could still be returned to Nauru.

“What we’re saying is if people have had medical attention in Australia, the doctors say they no longer require the medical attention, we will work with those families to remain in Australia whilst their medical and legal matters are finalised and then they will go back to their country of origin,” Mr Dutton said.

“If people then don’t want to go back to their country of origin, they go back to Nauru and then there’s a possibility of going to Cambodia or other third country options.”

Doctors at Brisbane’s Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital – where Asha has been receiving treatment after being injured on Nauru – had been refusing to release the child until a safe home was found.

Prof Owler, upon hearing on Saturday evening reports that security guards may forcibly remove the child from the hospital, sent a text to Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, who in turn contacted Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

He did not know what undertakings, if any, were given.

“I would hope that the prime minister of this country would realise the importance and the significance if a situation were to develop where they would allow the Department of Immigration and Border (Protection) to have private security guards come into a hospital against the advice of doctors and nurses and actually forcibly remove a patient,” Prof Owler said.

“Obviously that didn’t happen. I’m glad it didn’t, but I want to make sure it doesn’t happen in the future as well.”

The AMA called for the immediate removal of all children from onshore and offshore detention as well as a moratorium on asylum-seeker children being sent back to detention centres.

It also called for the establishment of a transparent, national statutory body of clinical experts, independent of government, with the power to investigate and report to the parliament on the health and welfare of asylum seekers and refugees.


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