Urgent re-think needed on families in detention policy

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) has expressed its concerns about the future of baby Asha and her family and is calling on both the Turnbull Government and the Opposition to urgently reverse the inhumane policy of keeping children and their families in indefinite detention.

Despite baby Asha being discharged from hospital into community detention, Federal Secretary Lee Thomas said the ANMF remains deeply concerned about the Government’s intentions for the future of asylum seekers currently on shore. In a morning radio interview, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton answered that ‘people will go back to Nauru’ after being asked about the baby’s future.

“Although Minister Dutton has temporarily responded to the urgent calls of health professionals and the community, we are extremely worried that the Minister is planning to send baby Asha back to Nauru once the heat dies down,” Ms Thomas said today.

“And our concerns extend beyond the safety and welfare of baby Asha and her family, our concerns are for the health of all asylum seekers and the harms caused by immigration detention.

‘We welcomed the opportunity to be part of the discussion at the AMA-convened Forum of health professionals held in Sydney yesterday, which called for a ‘moratorium on asylum seeker children being sent back to detention centres and the immediate release of all children from off-shore and on-shore detention into the community where they can be properly cared for.’

“The ANMF has a long history of campaigning against the detention of refugees and asylum seekers; at the ANMF’s Biennial National Conference last year, our members unanimously passed a series of resolutions condemning current immigration detention policy and last year’s Border Force Act, preventing nurses and doctors from speaking up about the deplorable conditions in detention centres. So we did not hesitate to stand with the AMA on this issue.

“At the Forum, nurses and doctors described the appalling treatment of refugees and asylum seekers they had witnessed; unsanitary and dangerous conditions and lack of access to even basic health care. They warned about the physical, mental and emotional horrors children are suffering in detention, a child as young as six trying to suicide, or a 15-year-old sewing their lips together.

“Places like Nauru, Manus Island and Christmas Island, are no places for children. In fact, detention on these islands is a form of abuse.

“The Minister is on notice: he has a moral obligation to listen to the nurses, doctors and the other health professionals who continue to warn the Government about the dangers of keeping infants and children locked-up.

“We will keep fighting for the release of children and their families in detention.”

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