On the July 27, 2016, Doctors For Refugees filed a High Court challenge to the Border Force Act of 2015. This action has been spearheaded and progressed by Fitzroy Legal Centre in Melbourne and is represented by counsel Ron Merkel QC, Craig Lenehan and Andrew Yuile.

Below is an open letter that signed by 40 medical practitioners on the 1 July 2015, in response to the Secrecy Provisions part of the Border Force Act. Which gives a good indicator as to why it is essential that this Act is challenged.

“Today the Border Force Act comes into force. It includes provision for a two-year jail sentence for “entrusted persons” such as ourselves if we continue to speak out about the deplorable state of human rights in immigration detention without the express permission of the minister for immigration and border protection. This strengthens the wall of secrecy which prevents proper public scrutiny.

“If we witness child abuse in Australia we are legally obliged to report it to child protection authorities.

“We have advocated, and will continue to advocate, for the health of those for whom we have a duty of care, despite the threats of imprisonment, because standing by and watching sub-standard and harmful care, child abuse and gross violations of human rights is not ethically justifiable.

“If we witness child abuse in Australia we are legally obliged to report it to child protection authorities. If we witness child abuse in detention centres, we can go to prison for attempting to advocate for them effectively. Internal reporting mechanisms such as they are have failed to remove children from detention; a situation that is itself recognised as a form of systematic child abuse.

“Evidence of the devastating effects of institutional self-protection and blindness to child abuse has been presented before the current royal commission. We are determined not to collude with a system that repeats these same mistakes.

“There are currently many issues which constitute a serious threat to the health of those in detention for whom we have a duty of care. The Department of Immigration and Border Protection is aware of these problems and has for years failed to address them adequately.

“We are aware that in publishing this letter we may be prosecuted under the Border Force Act and we challenge the department to prosecute so that these issues may be discussed in open court and in the full view of the Australian public.”

‘Open letter on the Border Force Act – we challenge the Department to prosecute’, The Guardian 1 July 2015; ‘Detention Centre staff speak out in defiance of new asylum secrecy laws’, The Guardian 1 July 2015

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