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AMA welcomes Greens' bill to establish expert health care panel for refugees

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Australian Medical Association Limited ABN 37 008 426 793

42 Macquarie Street, Barton ACT 2600: PO Box 6090, Kingston ACT 2604 Telephone: (02) 6270 5400 Facsimile (02) 6270 5499 Website :


AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, said today that the AMA welcomes the Australian Greens’ Bill to establish an independent Expert Health Care Panel to oversee the health of asylum seekers and refugees in immigration detention.

The AMA President called for an Expert Panel at the AMA Parliamentary Dinner in Canberra last month, saying the Panel would “add some humanity to an otherwise inhumane policy”.

Dr Hambleton urges all Parliamentarians to support the Greens’ Bill.

“Indefinite detention has a serious mental health impact on detainees,” Dr Hambleton said.

“The remoteness of Nauru and Manus Island for offshore processing will make effective health care delivery more difficult.

“Asylum seekers and refugees are at particular risk from a range of health conditions including psychological disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety depression, and the physical effects of persecution and torture.

“They also suffer poor dental hygiene, poor nutrition and diet, infectious diseases, and health problems associated with the general living conditions in detention facilities.

“Children especially are more vulnerable. Detention can cause serious harm to a child’s development, particularly when there is ongoing exposure to traumatised adults.

“It is important that independent medical experts be allowed to inspect the health services and conditions in detention facilities and report back to the Parliament.

“The Bill being introduced by the Australian Greens must be supported by the Parliament to show the world that we are a compassionate society.

“The AMA would like to see the Expert Panel’s responsibilities extend to inspecting and reporting on health services and conditions in onshore facilities as well,” Dr Hambleton said.

The AMA believes that people who are seeking, or who have been granted, asylum within Australia have the right to receive appropriate medical care without discrimination, regardless of citizenship, visa status, or ability to pay. Like all seeking health care, asylum seekers and refuges in Australia should be treated with compassion, respect, and dignity.

The AMA Position Statement on the Health Care of Asylum Seekers and Refugees is at

10 September 2012

CONTACT: John Flannery 02 6270 5477 / 0419 494 761

Kirsty Waterford 02 6270 5464 / 0427 209 753