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Doctor warns of "serious risk" a child could die on Nauru


A child could die in detention on Nauru if the Federal Government does not intervene, a leading Australian paediatrician says.

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The claims follow disturbing new reports that one-in-four children in detention on Nauru are suicidal.

The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre says more than half of the children held on the island have been flagged for urgent medical attention, with 25 per cent acutely suicidal.

But Professor David Isaacs said the reports only confirmed what he had experienced working on the island and called for immediate government intervention to prevent further trauma.

“This morning’s reports are shocking, but they are entirely consistent with what I saw when I visited the Nauru detention centre in 2014,” said Isaacs, a Royal Australasian College of Physicians fellow.

“The situation now amounts to nothing short of a medical emergency.

“As a paediatrician, it is my view that if our government does not act now, there is a serious risk of death.”

About 50 children and 550 adults remain as refugees on the island.

They are not detained, are free to move about the 21-square-kilometre island and have 20-year visas, the government says.

Home Affairs chief medical officer Parbodh Gogna has told a Senate estimates hearing there had been “an unprecedented jump” in people presenting to medical facilities on Nauru in the last couple of months.

ASRC detention advocacy manager Natasha Blucher believes Medecins Sans Frontieres’ expulsion from the island two weeks ago was a major factor in the situation worsening.

“The kids were left with an interminable future of nothing,” Blucher told AAP.

The Nauru government was scathing of MSF, taking particular offence to their “beloved home” being labelled an “open-air prison”.

South Australian Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie wants a solution to the issue.

“We will be using our best efforts in the parliament and I’m not going to rest until we can get all of those children from Nauru,” Sharkie told ABC TV today.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said Labor was in a “blind panic” about detainees on Nauru, and a push to send them to New Zealand wouldn’t work due to security reasons.

He said the United States had security concerns about some of the asylum seekers on Nauru.

“If you want to see kids back in detention, then Labor has the formula for it,” he told 2GB radio.

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