Intended for healthcare professionals


Australia’s torture of asylum seekers

BMJ 2016; 354 doi: (Published 31 August 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;354:i4606
  1. David Berger, executive committee member
  1. Doctors4refugees, Australia
  1. daveberger{at}

It’s time for doctors to march

The Guardian newspaper’s publication of 8000 leaked pages alleging horrendous abuse and appalling conditions for detainees at Australia’s immigration detention centre on the Pacific island of Nauru has again brought Australia’s treatment of indefinitely imprisoned asylum seekers into sharp public focus.1

The so-called Nauru files, published on 10 August, describe alleged assaults, sexual abuse, self harm attempts, and child abuse. The Guardian’s analysis showed 51.3% of the 2116 reports involve children, although children were only about 18% of those in detention at the time.

Doctors’ leaders in Australia, including Michael Gannon, president of the Australian Medical Association, have again roundly condemned the alleged treatment revealed. But the response of the country’s immigration minister, Peter Dutton, has been to trivialise and dismiss the reports, even accusing asylum seekers of self immolation in their attempts to get to Australia.2 3

Advocates of humane treatment for asylum seekers are left once more scratching their heads and wondering how …

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