Federal Government prevents doctor from examining children in detention on Christmas Island

24 July 2014
The Federal Government is preventing a specialist paediatrician from accessing the Christmas Island Detention Centre to examine children for legal purposes, after previously approving the visit.

Law firm Maurice Blackburn, which acts for children and families in detention on Christmas Island, has organised for the paediatrician who arrived on Christmas Island on Tuesday, to do medical assessments of babies. The firm made formal applications to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection for access. The visit was approved last week but when the doctor turned up at the detention centre she was prevented access.

On Tuesday she was forbidden to take in her stethoscope, and on Wednesday, without explanation, she was suddenly refused access to the centre altogether.

Jacob Varghese, Maurice Blackburn Principal said: “We made a request that the doctor be allowed to visit via the usual official channels. The purpose of the visit is to examine our clients to check on their health and, if necessary, provide evidence to a court.

“What does the Government have to hide on Christmas Island? The President of the Human Rights Commission has today detailed the healthcare crisis affecting parents and children on Christmas Island. Clearly this is an issue that needs more scrutiny, not less.

“We have a doctor who has taken time out of a busy schedule, who is a potential witness in a legal case, waiting on Christmas Island. She is now simply waiting for the next flight off the Island. We urge the Government to honour its promise and allow this doctor access to babies and children.

“We want independent verification of the standard of care being provided to children in detention. Among other things, parents tell us that children have constant respiratory illnesses and skin problems. Some have other more serious health issues.”

At least 11 mothers detained on Christmas Island have made suicide attempts over the past fortnight and this is having a serious impact on children’s health.

“The answer is not to hide people behind fences and deploy more security guards, but to bring all asylum seekers and their children to the mainland so they can be cared for more humanely and have access to quality medical services,” Mr Varghese said.

Maurice Blackburn acts for 73 babies of asylum seekers. The babies are deemed unauthorised maritime arrivals, despite having been born on Australian soil.

The Government has agreed it would not send any of the Australian-born babies currently on Christmas Island to off-shore detention until after the resolution of the ‘baby Ferouz’ case.

The baby Ferouz case is seeking to prevent the removal of an Australian-born baby to a Nauru or Manus Island and will establish whether babies born in Australia are “unauthorised maritime arrivals,” or if they have rights to apply for Australian residency.


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