Australia’s laws on offshore immigration detention are not only contrary to international human rights but to basic medical ethics, the experts warn in a special issue of the Journal of Medical Ethics.
The system’s lack of transparency is helping to perpetuate ongoing human rights abuses and what amounts to the “torture” of asylum seekers at offshore detention centres Manus Island and Nauru, they argue.
Professor Thomas Faunce from the College of Law and Medical School at the Australian National University agrees, and has joined calls for doctors to boycott working at the detention centres.
“The secrecy surrounding such places of what is in effect incarceration without judicial order should be protested by medical professionals.”
Prof Faunce also wants doctors who receive patients from these centres to refuse to return them.
Media and other reports from Manus Island and Nauru have raised concerns about the quality of medical care provided and whether health care professionals have been able to fulfil their professional and ethical obligations to patients in these facilities.
Leaked documents, published by The Guardian on Tuesday, showed the International Health and Medical Services (IHMS) – the private health care provider contracted by the Department of Immigration and Boarder Protection (DIBP) – failed to meet medical targets and deliberately included incorrect data in reports.
The documents also revealed that IHMS failed to undertake working with children checks and police checks on Manus Island.
Last year, a whistleblower security guard who worked at Nauru made allegations of waterboarding, force feeding during hunger strikes, the use of restraints for deportation and the incarceration of children.
The claims have been strenuously denied by the DIBP.
With Europe contending with the largest migration since World War II as a result of the Syrian humanitarian crisis, the authors of the JME report say Australia’s approach to immigration and asylum seekers should be a lesson on what not to do.
The DIBP stands by its previous denials of torture and continues to defend its policy on the detention of asylum seekers.