The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is calling for coordinated action to enhance the health and wellbeing of people from refugee backgrounds, including those seeking asylum in Australia.
On World Refugee Day, Tuesday 20 June, a day designated by the United Nations to celebrate and honour refugees from around the world, the RACGP has released an updated position, Health and wellbeing of people from refugee backgrounds and people seeking asylum must be a priority,’ which calls for:
- equitable access to healthcare, including full access to both federally and state funded health services for all people from a refugee background, including those seeking asylum
- support of the UNHCR’s global strategy to end the detention of asylum-seekers and refugees and recognition that immigration detention and prolonged visa uncertainty causes physical and mental harm to people seeking asylum
- an evidence based national strategy to improve the delivery of healthcare to refugees and people seeking asylum across Australia.
RACGP President Dr Nicole Higgins said people from refugee backgrounds, including those seeking asylum have a right to equitable healthcare.
“It’s essential that refugees and people seeking asylum have access to high-quality healthcare. People from refugee backgrounds often have higher rates of long-term physical and mental health issues compared with other migrants, due in large part to hardships experienced during the refugee journey and the stressors of resettlement,” she said.
“People seeking asylum face additional stressors. There is significant evidence that demonstrates the adverse mental and physical health impacts of immigration detention and prolonged visa uncertainty on people seeking asylum. The RACGP endorses the UNHCR’s global strategy to end the detention of asylum-seekers and refugees and calls for timely permanent settlement solutions for all those seeking asylum.
“Comprehensive primary care that is responsive to the diversity of experiences people have had during their refugee journeys is essential, and GPs and other health care providers need to be supported to deliver equitable access to care.”
RACGP Migrant, Refugee and Asylum Seeker Health Specific Interests Chair Dr Rebecca Farley said the RACGP is urging federal, state and territory governments to work together.
“GPs have a key role to play in caring for people who are seeking asylum and refugees across Australia, but they need to be supported to deliver this care,” she said.
“Improved coordination between commonwealth and state agencies and relevant peak bodies, along with improved reporting of cultural and linguistic diversity is essential to support a more consistent, equitable and integrated approach to the delivery of refugee healthcare across Australia. This will enable us to improve our capacity to respond to health and humanitarian crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, Afghan evacuation and war in Ukraine.
“Consistent access to Medicare is also essential. The RACGP supports a policy of providing full access to both federally and state funded health services for people seeking asylum once they have lodged a claim for protection.
“We are fortunate in Australia to have a world class healthcare system. But more can be done to ensure a consistent, integrated, and sustainable approach to the delivery of refugee healthcare across Australia that will enable equitable access to high-quality care for all people from refugee backgrounds, including those seeking asylum.”
Mohammad Al-Khafaji, Co-Chair of the national peak body representing multicultural health and wellbeing issues, The Australian Multicultural Health Collaborative, said the health system needs to meet refugee and asylum seekers’ needs.
“The Australian Multicultural Health Collaborative joins RACGP in its call and highlights the critical need for an integrated approach with a community-based healthcare navigation system that is trusted by refugee and asylum seekers and provides services and supports in their preferred language,” he said.
“We also acknowledge the great work already done by the refugee health sector who have for years advocated and provided critical service to refugees and people seeking asylum. We look forward to working with them and RACGP to advocate for better outcomes for refugee communities.”
Royal Australian College of General Practitioners
email@example.com / 03 8699 0992
Australian Multicultural Health Collaborative (FECCA)
Daniel Coase: 0466 341 212 / firstname.lastname@example.org