13 Oct 2015

NZ doctor fights for detained children

3:57 pm on 13 October 2015

A former New Zealand Children's Commissioner is calling on the Australian Government to release children from immigration detention centres and resolve their cases.

The barren and bankrupt island state of the Republic of Nauru awaits the arrival of refugees, 11 September 2001. Just 25 square kilometres, Nauru has been devastated by phosphate mining which once made the Micronesians the second wealthiest people per capita on earth. AFP PHOTO/Torsten BLACKWOOD

Nauru Photo: AFP

Almost 1000 doctors, nurses and other clinical staff from the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne have called for an end to the detention of children, saying it is bad for their health.

They say they will not discharge children who would be sent back to a detention centre.

Paediatrician Ian Hassall, who was New Zealand's first children's commissioner, said the young asylum seekers were at risk in the centres, such as that on Nauru.

"Our ethics and the law demands that we not subject children to harm and here we are sending them to this situation where many of them are bound to come to harm," he said.

Dr Hassall said he and 39 child health advocates wrote a joint letter to Prime Minister John Key and the Australian Government in July over the ill-treatment of children.

However, he warned the risk of doctors not discharging children back to detention centres was the government might retaliate by not sending children to onshore hospitals in the future.

The mental health and development of children was damaged when they had no prospects of appeal or release, Dr Hassall said.