10 Oct 2018

'There will be a death' - Doctor sounds Nauru warning

8:58 am on 10 October 2018

It's a miracle that a refugee child detained on Nauru has not yet died, an Australian doctor says.

But Paul Bauert, a Darwin based paediatrician who treated refugees on the island, says there will soon be a death unless action is taken.

Nauru protest

Nauru protest Photo: supplied

About 900 refugees, 90 children of whom are children, are currently languishing in Australian exile on Nauru, physically and emotionally ravaged by five years of indefinite detention.

The Australian Federal Court has ordered the medical evacuation of dozens of children from the island this year, orders the Guardian revealed the Australian government spent $AU320,000 fighting in the last financial year.

But after the Nauru government this week ordered an end to the mental health service provided to refugees by Doctors Without Borders, fears have grown for the refugees detained there.

The international charity had identified cases of schizophrenia and family violence among those detained on the island, and high rates of depression especially among children.

Countless cases of self harm amoung the refugees, some under the age of 10, prompted the Nauru government to order the arrest of anyone who attempts or even talks about committing suicide.

Yesterday, Nauru police arrested a 36-year-old refugee for trying to kill himself by swallowing washing powder.

Paul Bauert

Paul Bauert Photo: Twitter / Paul Bauert

The Australian doctor, Paul Bauert, said the mental health problems amoung the refugees were severe.

"We really are at crisis point where there will be a death, I think it's a miracle that there hasn't been a death so far," he said.

"The Australian public and particularly the Australian doctors and thankfully the New Zealand Paediatric Society have all joined together to say 'enough is enough'. These people really do need to be taken off the island."

The situation in Nauru is a crime against humanity, Dr Bauert said.

Of the 90 children many had fallen into a state known as resignation syndrome where they were unable to eat or drink "and have lost completely the will to live".

He said there was a group of children aged 8,9 and 10 deemed to be at a high risk of suicide.

"The problem is that our ability to treat these children is hampered along the way by bureaucratic red tape and deliberate attempts by Australian Border Force to prevent these children being removed from the island.

"It's really an atrocious point in Australia's history. The time to do something is right now. We can't afford to let this drag on any further."