NAURU: "If this happened to your own six-year, old you'd be horrified"

30 AUG 2016

Doctors have called for a six-year old boy who was the victim of a violent attack by a guard working in detention in Nauru to be urgently moved to Australia for assessment, following his mother’s attempted suicide.

Mohammad Mahdi Eskandarikhah has been identified by immigration health authorities to have multiple behavioural and emotional problems, but has never been formally assessed and treated.


In March last year a local Nauruan guard at the detention centre was throwing rocks at a group of asylum seekers and one hit Mohammad in the face. Mohammad’s lip was cut and his tooth badly chipped in the attack.

“If this happened to your own six-year old, you’d be horrified,” said Dr Barri Phatarfod, Convenor of Doctors for Refugees. “So, imagine the effect on a six year old with developmental issues, locked up in a hostile, foreign environment and attacked by those supposedly watching over him.”

“The lack of normal, trusting relationships with adults reinforces the feeling of complete powerlessness in these children, compounding the terror they experience,” Dr Phatarfod said.



A paediatrician with Doctors for Refugees recently reviewed Mohammad’s files, and called for the Australian government to urgently move him to Australia for assessment. Consultant Paediatrician Dr Nikola Morton said despite Mohammad’s files repeatedly referencing a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum disorder, he had never been formally assessed. She said that along with hearing and other behavioural assessments, this needed to be done in Australia as a matter of urgency.


“It is very important to address this promptly to ensure that Mohammad can participate successfully in schooling,” she wrote.


Dr Phatarfod said Mohammad and his family needed to be brought to Australia. “A comprehensive hearing assessment should have been done immediately, while he was still at the formative stage of verbalising. This needs to be initiated now as a matter of urgency to give him the best chance with his future development. As does intensive trauma counselling. None of this is possible on Nauru” she said.


Mohammad has been held on Nauru for nearly half his life.


Dr Phatarfod said it was cases like Mohammad’s that had triggered Doctors For Refugees to launch a landmark High Court case to challenge the secrecy provisions in the Border Force Act that threatens doctors who advocating for people like Mohammad and his family with two year’s jail.


“Some in the public accepted this new law because they trusted the government would adhere to basic human rights’ standards. After the appalling revelation in the Don Dale juvenile correction facility, people are now aware that widespread abuse can flourish undetected.”


“If this can go unreported on the Australian mainland, it’s easy to see how it would be magnified in a remote Pacific island where even journalists are banned. Doctors cannot be forcibly silenced as witnesses to this.”


Fitzroy Legal Service is running the case on behalf of the doctors, and a hearing date is expected to be set later this month.