This blog post is in the form of an open letter.
From Dr Ian Hassall
The Hon Tony Abbott MP/ Mr Bill Shorten MP
We, the undersigned are senior New Zealand paediatricians and child health workers experienced in the care of children and their protection from ill-treatment. We are concerned for the children detained by the Australian Commonwealth Government in the immigration detention centres on Nauru and elsewhere.
The circumstances in which there is no prospect of appeal or release are inevitably detrimental to many of the children’s development and mental health because of the impact on them of the depression, anger and desperation of their parents and other adults in the camps.
Further, it is the world-wide experience that children in institutional circumstances such as these are unsafe. Some will suffer abuse.
The secrecy provisions in Part 6 of the Australian Border Force Bill 2015 which came into effect on 1 July will exacerbate these effects by severely limiting public oversight of conditions in the camps. In this respect, we support the open letter to yourself of 1 July, 2015 from our Australian colleagues, Dr John-Paul Sanggaran and forty others.
Our plea is that your Government should take steps to mitigate the plight of the children in its custody on Nauru and elsewhere. We respectfully suggest these initial actions:
- Provision for detainees of a realistic hope of resolution through processing as refugees. Without this, children are in the position of hostages in a policy aimed at deterrence which has some of the features of collective punishment, condemned in human rights instruments such as the Geneva Convention.
- Permitting public oversight of the conditions and effects on children of life in the camps through removal of the tight secrecy provisions in the Australian Border Force Bill and provision for independent monitoring and review.