Amid hot political debate regarding the fate of asylum seekers in Australia, the Australian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA) is calling on all politicians to recall their humanitarian values and the basic principle of health for all.
AMSA President Mr James Churchill said that Australian values of respect, dignity and compassion should remain central to today’s Senate debate about whether or not to implement offshore processing of asylum seekers in countries such as Malaysia.
"As one of 147 signatories to the Refugees Convention, Australia must uphold its commitment to not only accept but to humanely treat asylum seekers and refugees regardless of how they arrive in Australia,” Mr Churchill said.
"We know that refugees and asylum seekers are exposed to conditions that predispose them to poorer mental and physical health, including time spent in refugee camps or detention facilities; history of persecution and armed conflict; and the threat of, or actual, physical violence.
“Policies implemented by Government including detention and offshore processing have the potential to exacerbate the health problems already faced by refugees and asylum seekers and we need to ensure that any negative consequences of Australian policies are minimised.
“AMSA believes that, in order to reduce negative health impacts, the Government should avoid detention of asylum seekers and, while detention exists, minimise time spent in detention centres.
“Asylum seekers and refugees are some of the world’s most vulnerable people and we have a responsibility to give these people a fair go.
“Australians need our parliament to put the bickering aside and take leadership on this issue to provide a sensible solution that prevents tragedies like the ones we have seen in the last two weeks,” he said.
AMSA calls on the Government to prioritise the short- and long-term health impacts of the decisions it makes now. Clear and decisive action is needed and every effort should be made to minimise the detrimental health effects associated with detention and processing of people seeking protection in Australia.
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