Medics slam govt asylum policies

Almost 40 Blue Mountains medics have weighed into the asylum debate with a full page advertisement in this week's Gazette voicing their opposition to government policy and appealing for help from local MP, Louise Markus.

The local doctors, nurses, paramedics and social workers say the recent return of asylum seekers to the Sri Lankan authorities is "an appalling state of affairs" which falls "well below international standards".

They also voiced concerns for a second boatload of refugees whose fate is now before the High Court.

"As health practitioners we are deeply concerned about the fate of a further boat load of asylum seekers. We understand that this boat has over 150 people on board including children and women. The health and safety of these people is of great concern to us," the letter states.

The health workers also slam long-standing policies, citing the "disgraceful" medical services available to refugees on Christmas Island.

"The well-documented mental health impacts are appalling, and will cause long-term problems not only for these people, but for Australian society and our health services", the letter states.

"Australia is one of the wealthiest countries on earth", says Hazelbrook GP and co-writer Dr Linda McQueen.

"When did it become okay for us to be heartless? To have so little compassion and generosity?"

The medics have appealed to Mrs Markus to help change the government's approach to asylum seekers and also hope their advertisement will make others think about the people behind the headlines.

"This suffering is happening at our hands, on our soil, under our noses," says fellow GP, Dr Jane Basden of Lawson. "We are simply saying that is not okay."

When questioned about the ad, MP for Macquarie, Louise Markus, said she would pass their concerns on to Immigration Minister Scott Morrison.

"I understand there are many in the community that are concerned about the government's border protection policy; but as a government, we must combat illegal people smugglers whilst also identifying those that are genuine asylum seekers".

She said there have been 1200 deaths at sea so far and the government "does not wish to see any more deaths at sea and will continue to act in accordance with our international obligations, including applicable international conventions and to protect the safety of life at sea".

"Regarding the 41, [not 43] Sri Lankans, all persons intercepted and returned were subjected to an enhanced screening process, as also practiced by the previous government, to ensure compliance by Australia with our international obligations under relevant conventions.

"We are continuing with the measures introduced by the former Labor government, who used these measures on at least 30 occasions to return people to Sri Lanka where they were found not to engage Australia's obligations."

She could not comment on the matter before the High Court but said the government was providing health care services on Christmas Island, "commensurate with those available in the Australian community".

"There are 60 clinical staff who cater for the detainees. If attention is required, they are referred to the hospital for further care."


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