Australia

Australian doctors call for refugees to be released amid coronavirus fears

David Isaacs (C), a paediatric infectious diseases professor at the University of Sydney, penned the letter to Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton. Source: AAP

Healthcare professionals have co-signed a letter to the home affairs minister calling for the immediate release of refugees and asylum seekers in detention.

More than 1100 doctors, psychiatrists and other healthcare professionals have demanded the immediate release of people in Australia's immigration centres.

David Isaacs, a paediatric infectious diseases professor at the University of Sydney, penned the letter to Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton.

Professor Isaacs wants refugees and asylum seekers released into community-supported accommodation.

"Failure to take action to release people seeking asylum and refugees from detention will not only put them at greater risk of infection and possibly death," he wrote.

"It also risks placing a greater burden on wider Australian society and the health care system."

The letter is co-signed by 1183 doctors, psychiatrists, professors and other healthcare workers.

Professor Isaacs said detention centres and hotels being used after people were transferred from Manus Island and Nauru under medevac laws were high-risk for coronavirus.

A Brisbane immigration detention guard tested positive for the disease last month, sparking fears the virus could spread throughout the centre.

"We call for the release of people seeking asylum and refugees in detention immediately into the community, as the correct measure to take from both a humanitarian and public health perspective," the letter said.

The Department of Home Affairs has been contacted for comment.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others and gatherings are limited to two people unless you are with your family or household.

If you believe you may have contracted the virus, call your doctor (don’t visit) or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. If you are struggling to breathe or experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.

SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus.

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