Aussie doctors chal­lenge asy­lum se­crecy laws

The Myanmar Times - - World -

AUS­TRALIAN doctors mounted a le­gal chal­lenge yes­ter­day against laws which they say si­lence whis­tle-blow­ers at im­mi­gra­tion de­ten­tion camps, after al­le­ga­tions of abuse at the con­tro­ver­sial Pa­cific is­land cen­tres.

Doctors, lawyers and refugee ad­vo­cates have crit­i­cised the off­shore camps on Nauru and Pa­pua New Guinea, al­leg­ing some asy­lum seek­ers suf­fer from sex­ual abuse and men­tal health prob­lems.

Un­der Can­berra’s tough im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy, asy­lum seek­ers who try to reach Aus­tralia by boat are turned back or sent to the camps. They are barred from re­set­tle­ment in Aus­tralia even if later found to be refugees.

The con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment brought in the se­crecy pro­vi­sions last year, mak­ing it a crime for any­one who works for the im­mi­gra­tion de­part­ment, in­clud­ing con­trac­tors, such as med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als and aid work­ers, to dis­close in­for­ma­tion they ob­tain on the job.

“The way the law stands is that any­one who re­ports any con­di­tions that they see in the de­ten­tion cen­tres can face up to two years in jail,” said Barri Phatar­fod from Doctors for Refugees, which is be­hind the le­gal chal­lenge.

The group ar­gues that the laws breach the pro­tec­tion of free­dom of po­lit­i­cal com­mu­ni­ca­tion and are there­fore un­con­sti­tu­tional.

Ms Phatar­fod told re­porters that al­though doctors were pro­fes­sion­ally and eth­i­cally re­quired to re­port pos­si­ble abuse of pa­tients in Aus­tralia, they could face jail time if they speak out about sim­i­lar con­di­tions in im­mi­gra­tion de­ten­tion cen­tres. –

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