New Zealand paediatricians are backing their trans-Tasman colleagues in calling for an end to the Australian Government practice of holding children and their families in offshore immigration centres.

“Children and families on Nauru are living in an environment of overwhelming uncertainty,” said Dr Tim Jelleyman, the president of the Paediatric Society of New Zealand (PSNZ).

The Society is joining the the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP), the Australian Medical Association, and 180 other organisations in calling for the change in practice.

“Experiencing immigration detention for prolonged periods is extremely damaging all people, but it is particularly so for children – there is compelling evidence that this will continue to impact their health and wellbeing for the rest of their lives,” said Jelleyman.

He said by holding children and families in immigration centres, the Australian Government was operating counter to its obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, including the right to good quality health care, clean water, and nutritious food.

We know that children on Nauru are experiencing high levels of psychological stress. They are self-harming, refusing to eat, and are showing signs of resignation syndrome, where they will become extremely withdrawn as a response to the trauma they are exposed to every day,” said Jelleyman.

“The children and families of Nauru need to be provided urgent multidisciplinary, specialist assessments of their physical and mental health and wellbeing, and then wrap-around treatments that respond to their physical, mental and emotional health needs.”

Dr Jeff Brown, the NZ President for the RACP agreed, stating “children must not be separated from their whānau – we call on the Australian Government to keep families together, so they can support one another’s health, wellbeing and ongoing recovery.”

The PSNZ is making a call for all asylum seeker and refugee children and their families on Nauru to be brought to Australia and receive access to healthcare and safe environment as a matter of urgency by International Children’s Day, 20 November 2018.

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