AMA calls for independent medical panel to oversee the health of asylum seekers

22 Aug 2012

The AMA has tonight called on the Australian Parliament to establish a truly independent medical panel to oversee and report regularly on the health services that are available to asylum seekers in immigration detention facilities, both onshore and offshore.

AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, told politicians at the AMA Parliamentary Dinner that the Parliament had to restore some humanity to an otherwise inhumane approach to asylum seekers.

“The AMA proposes a truly independent panel of medical experts that visits the detention facilities, inspects the available health services and detainee access to them, and reports quarterly to the Parliament, the Prime Minister, and relevant Ministers,” Dr Hambleton said.

“This is about health and social justice,” Dr Hambleton said.

“The Panel must be above the bureaucracy.  The current advisory group reports to the Department of Immigration and, as such, is constrained and powerless to push genuine change.

“The Australian Parliament has voted for offshore processing of asylum seekers in Nauru and on Manus Island.

“It is now up to the Parliament to ensure that these desperate people seeking a better and safer life have access to quality health services.

“The Panel would also be charged with inspecting the health services of local communities where offshore processing facilities are located,” Dr Hambleton said.


  • detainees held offshore will inevitably have lower access to specialist health and medical care than those held onshore, given the time and travel logistics involved in flying specialists in from Australia;
  • asylum seekers typically have multiple health conditions requiring complex treatments.  Health emergencies will not be tended to as quickly;
  • the prospect of indefinite detention (which the offshore option adopted by Parliament appears to involve) is one of the greatest risks to the mental health of detainees (with self-harming and attempted suicide that this often involves);
  • where children are concerned, who are still developing, the stress and trauma of indefinite detention will have life-long health impacts;
  • many of those previously detained on Nauru under the previous Government’s Pacific Solution suffered serious mental health issues as a result of detention, with numerous incidences of self-harm and depression.


22 August 2012


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