Sydney Doctor Slams Australia for 'Shameful' Treatment of Asylum Seekers

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By Reissa Su | May 30, 2014 10:42 PM EST

A doctor in Sydney has criticised the government for "largely ignoring" his report regarding the poor medical treatment of asylum seekers in Australia-run detention centres in Christmas Island. Dr John-Paul Sanggaran outlined a 92-page report with 14 other physicians in November about the standard of care given to boat people.

In a conference on asylum seeker health in Sydney on May 27, Sanggaran said they have yet to receive an adequate response from authorities regarding the report. He said Australia's treatment of asylum seekers is "shameful."

Under Australia's asylum seeker policy, refugees arriving by boat are being sent to detention centres in Nauru or Papua New Guinea for offshore processing and resettlement outside the country.

Sanggaran said Australia has the capacity to provide sufficient care to asylum seekers and the government has the "ethical responsibility" to do so.

The doctor's criticism follows the latest evaluation on the mental health of asylum seekers in Manus Island. A recent report revealed half of asylum seekers are suffering from mental health problems like stress or anxiety and depression. Asylum seekers detained in Manus Island are worse off than those in Australia and on Christmas Island. Reports said the severity of their mental health conditions is proportional to the period of their detention. The longer they remain detained, the more their mental health deteriorates.

Sanggaran mentioned the United Nations and other refugee advocates' call for asylum seekers to be given "humane" treatment. The Human Rights Commission has previously said Australia may be violating international law for detaining children in offshore processing centres. The Australian Human Rights Commission conducted an investigation into the country's practice of holding refugee children in detention facilities in March.

According to Gillian Triggs, president of the Human Rights Commission, Australia may be in breach of international law. In a visit to Australia's detention facility in Christmas Island in March, Triggs said that international law is clear when it comes to children being detained. She said child asylum seekers may be detained only for health and security checks and not for a longer period.

Asylum seekers spend about eight months on average in Australia's detention facilities. 

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