Date: 
Tuesday 23 October 2018

The Australian Human Rights Commission urges the Australian Government to address growing concern about the health and wellbeing of refugees and asylum seekers subject to third country processing.

The Commission acknowledges that the Australian Government is working to address the health needs of children and families on Nauru.

Through its regular inspections of immigration detention facilities in Australia, the Commission has met with a number of children, families and individuals who have been transferred to Australia from Nauru and Manus Island for medical treatment.

Human Rights Commissioner Edward Santow noted that UNHCR, UNICEF and Australia’s peak medical bodies have all expressed serious concerns about the health and wellbeing of refugees and asylum seekers, particularly children, on Nauru and Manus Island.

“All people have the right to enjoy the highest attainable standard of health. Difficult living conditions and uncertainty about the future can have a negative impact on health and wellbeing.

“Under international law, Australia, Nauru and Papua New Guinea share joint responsibility for ensuring that the rights of people subject to third country processing are protected.

“Australian and local authorities should proactively ensure that everyone who requires medical care in Australia is transferred immediately.”

National Children’s Commissioner Megan Mitchell said: “Many children in Nauru have complex physical and mental health conditions that may not be adequately treated there. In recent months, more than 50% of children on Nauru have been transferred to Australia to ensure their needs are adequately addressed.

“This suggests that there is a systemic issue for all children who remain there, who are likely to have similar needs. I urge the Government to undertake comprehensive assessments of all children on Nauru and expedite their transfer to Australia for treatment where health needs are present.

“These children’s health care needs should be addressed as a matter of urgency.

“Protecting the best interests of children should always be a priority, in line with our international obligations.”

Photo: World Vision