The fate of asylum seeker children brought to Australia for medical treatment hangs in the balance as they await a High Court decision that could change their lives.
Doctors say the children should not be returned to offshore detention, and that it is akin to torture.
One 5-year-old boy currently in Australia for treatment was reportedly raped on Nauru, and is terrified of going back.
Doctors and nurses fed up with Australia’s asylum seeker policy are speaking out about conditions, risking possible jail time.
The medical professionals, who have worked at immigration detention facilities and have decades of experience as frontline health workers, say the Australian public would be horrified to learn the conditions children are kept in.
They’ve made a series of videos they hope will force more attention onto the issue.
“When I went to Nauru just for five days to see children, I knew what I was expecting to see and I was still horrified by it,” David Isaacs, a paediatrician at the refugee clinic at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead says on one of the videos.
“I think prolonged detention without knowing what’s going to happen to you is a form of torture,” he says.
Watch Professor Isaacs speak about his concerns (post continues after video):
“It’s a deliberate harm and it’s torture. And there’s a real viciousness about that that is incredibly worrying. That’s not what you expect of a caring country, of a county that prides itself on being civilised.
“The way we treat asylum seekers is truly reprehensible. It’s shameful and we should be ashamed of that. And I am ashamed of it. It makes me shamed to be Australian and I’m proud to be Australian generally. I don’t want to be treating people in that way,” he says.
Professor Isaacs has been an outspoken opponent of the Federal Government’s asylum seeker policy since spending five days visiting off shore detention facilities.
In 2015 he risked sanctions under the Government’s tough Border Force Act to speak out about what he had seen. In these videos, Professor Isaacs and his colleagues do this again.
He says the government wants to stop discussion and reporting on what’s happening in detention because it is ashamed.
“This secrecy is obviously deliberate and that means the Government is ashamed of what they are doing and they should be ashamed of what they’re doing.”
Karen Zwi, who also works as a paediatrician at the refugee clinic told Mamamia that the latest campaign was borne out of desperation.
“I have been trying in many different ways to get the message across that detention is harmful and damages children who could otherwise become resilient and resourceful adults,” Associate Professor Zwi says.
Professor Zwi talks about the impact of detention on small children (post continues after video):
“I have been on government advisory committees, I have written policy documents, I have published in scientific medical journals as well as in the public press, I have given many talks.