One in four refugee children on Nauru are acutely suicidal, according to a review of medical cases by doctors that has been released by a Footscray-based asylum seeker support organisation.
The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre has released information it says highlights the disturbing condition of critically ill children left behind on Nauru.
The organisation said the a review of cases by Australian doctors including child psychiatrist Dr Julie Stone shows that one in four of the 52 children remaining on Nauru despite being found to be genuine refugees are suicidal.
The review also found toddlers born into detention on Nauru are suffering developmental delays, including problems with their sight and activities like walking.
It comes as doctors from Footscray joined hundreds of colleagues from across Australia in writing to Federal MPs demanding an end to the stalemate that has left 52 young children languishing on the remote Pacific island.
Concern about the mental health of those left on Nauru has grown since October 5 when Nauruan authorities ordered Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) to terminate its mental health activities in the country and hand over all medical records.
Seven reviewed cases were found to be critical by Australian doctors, prompting lawyers to seek urgent injunctions for medical transfer to Australia.
A further 22 cases were flagged for urgent independent medical opinions.
Dr Julie Stone said she holds grave concerns for the welfare of the remaining children.
“Every child I have reviewed is in urgent need of medical care, specialist intervention and treatment,” she said.
“No child can spend five years in such a hopeless environment without their health and well-being deteriorating.”
Dr Stone said some of the developmental impairments risk being life-long, with urgent specialist intervention.
“Life on Nauru is difficult for everyone. Some parents are acutely unwell and struggle to care for the babies and young children in the way they want to,” she said.
“The babies and parents presented to me are beside themselves; some of the babies are listless and silent and seem very little engaged with their caregivers and life around them.”
Asylum Seeker Resource Centre detention advocacy manager, Natasha Blucher, said the information was being released for the first time to show the medical crisis on Nauru is far from over.
“We are seeing cases of children who have stopped eating and babies who are not interacting because of the traumatic living conditions of offshore processing on Nauru,” she said.
The information release comes as the Australian government has walked away from negotiations with the Labor opposition that could have paved the way for the remaining children and their families to be brought to Australia for medical treatment.
Australian Border Force says 652 refugees and asylum seekers, including 52 children and 107 family members, are on Nauru.
Eleven children were flown from Nauru to Australia on Monday night to receive urgent medical treatment.
But the government is now challenging the Federal Court’s ability to order humanitarian evacuations of sick children to Australia for emergency medical care.