Doctors reject Nauru president's claims refugee kids self-harm to game system

Doctors reject Nauru president's claims refugee kids self-harm to game system
Doctors reject Nauru president's claims refugee kids self-harm to game system

Australian doctors have hit back at the President of Nauru's claims that refugee children in detention are self-harming to "short-circuit" the system to get to Australia.

In an interview with Sky News on Saturday, President Baron Waqa claimed refugee advocates, along with the children's parents, were "pushing" refugee children to self-harm.

"We tend to think … these kids are pushed into doing something they're not aware of and the dangers of, if that is the case we are extremely worried," Mr Waqa said.

"It's the way of working the system, probably short-circuiting it, just to get to Australia."

Professor Louise Newman from Doctors for Justice said the claims were wrong.

"I reject any suggestions that refugee advocates were to blame for children self-harming on Nauru," Dr Newman said.

The ABC's 7.30 program recently detailed the conditions and trauma some of the 112 child asylum-seekers face in detention on Nauru.

Leaked documents compiled by immigration workers and obtained by 7.30 revealed a shocking spate of recent self-harm incidents.

"The crisis of mental illness among children on Nauru is real. Children are repeatedly attempting suicide by lethal means," Dr Newman said.

"There has been a disturbing rise in cases of Traumatic Withdrawal Syndrome [TWS], also known as Resignation Syndrome.

"These conditions are increasing as a direct result of prolonged detention, limited access to child and adolescent mental health care, and severe stress in families. Children are at the end of their capacity to withstand the trauma of this situation." Dr Newman said.

"Conditions such as TWS are a response to severe trauma and have been described in other countries among asylum-seeker and refugee children. It is a sign that the situation on Nauru is unsafe and damaging."

Photo Refugee children on Nauru.

Supplied: World Vision

Mr Waqa said, "we can see a hike in these sorts of incidences lately … never before, and for us, children, they're our concern, our own children, refugee children as well, we provide them education, quality education, health services, everything."

"And they're free to roam around they make friends with Nauruan kids. Just like kids around the world they're all happy," he said.

"Refugee advocates are always there, and the parents are the ones as well … and we are investigating a lot of these incidences."

The Director of the National Justice Project, lawyer George Newhouse, said, "the President of Nauru was not qualified to make medical assessments and that his approach to children with diagnosed illnesses was putting their lives at risk".

Mr Waqa also accused the ABC of "dishonest" reporting and denied claims that the country's ban on the ABC covering the international forum was against press freedom.

"We invite a lot of people and a lot of media organisations coming [sic]," he said.

"We're open, for ABC … not at this time."

The Pacific Islands Forum is currently underway, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison sending Foreign Minister Marise Payne to attend in his place.

In July, the Federal Parliamentary Press Gallery issued a statement saying it would not cover the forum on Nauru unless it reversed its ban on the ABC.

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