The Australian Greens today announced that they will introduce a bill in the Senate to establish an independent panel of expert physicians to oversee the health and mental health of asylum seekers and refugees in indefinite offshore detention.
"The Expert Health Care Panel proposed by the Greens will add some humanity to an otherwise inhumane policy" said Greens' immigration spokesperson Senator Sarah Hanson-Young.
"The Government should back the Greens' proposal for independent specialised health oversight if it is interested in limiting the harm caused to refugees and their children by dumping them indefinitely on Nauru and Manus Island.
"We know that the last Pacific 'Solution' led to a severe mental health crisis, kept independent medical experts away and failed to provide refugees with adequate access to health and psychiatric treatment. The only way to ensure that this is not repeated is through guarantees in the law.
"Along with peak medical bodies, the Greens are proposing an Expert Health Care Panel that will be independent of Government, empowered to make genuine change, and mandated to report directly to Parliament every six months on the health and mental health of men, women and children detained offshore.
"We know that indefinite detention is disastrous to refugees' mental health and well-being so from the very beginning there must be a safety net of expert, independent health care for these most unfortunate and vulnerable people.
"The Greens back the view of the Australian Medical Association that if the Government and opposition are determined to pursue its policy of offshore processing, it is crucial that there is oversight from the medical profession," said Senator Di Natale, Greens' spokesperson for Health.
"Of course the medical community is concerned about the Government's approach to asylum seekers, it violates the central tenant of the Hippocratic oath - first, do no harm. Condemning vulnerable people to indefinite detention on Nauru or Manus Island is the Government actively inflicting harm.
"As the AMA has highlighted, long-term detention of vulnerable people has led to an epidemic of mental health issues resulting in suicides, self-harm, long term depression and anxiety related disorders.
"It's not good enough to have a situation where the police are policing themselves. There needs to be independent oversight."
Media contact: Sen Sarah Hanson-Young: Ali Neyle 0427 604 760
Sen Richard di Natale: Andrew Blyberg 0457 901 600