Aussie medical officer arrested in Nauru
A SENIOR Australian medical officer at the nation's offshore processing centre on Nauru has been arrested and will be deported from the island.
It comes amid growing calls for the Morrison Government to act urgently to remove sick children and families from detention on Nauru and after Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) officers, who were providing psychological services, were also suddenly deported from the island.
Dr Nicole Montana, the chief medical officer with Australia's contractor on the island, International Health Medical Services, was reportedly arrested last night and ordered to leave.
An IHMS spokeswoman told News Corp Dr Montana was stood down yesterday "for a breach of Regional Processing Centre rules".
She did not confirm what the breach was but added: "She is departing Nauru today. A replacement Senior Medical Officer is already in Nauru, there has been no impact on the services provided to transferees."
A witness told Guardian Australia that Australian Border Force officers had asked police not to handcuff Dr Montana when she was arrested.
The Department of Home Affairs refused to comment on the matter this morning beyond confirming a replacement senior medical officer was in Nauru and that there would be "no impact" to the care of asylum seekers on the island.
Calls for the Morrison Government to remove sick children in detention from the island have been ramping up in recent days, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison now under pressure from his own team to act.
Liberal MPs Julia Banks, Craig Laundy and Russell Broadbent went public with calls for the Prime Minister to resolve the "humanitarian crisis" on Nauru, while fellow Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman questioned Mr Morrison directly in a party room meeting in Canberra yesterday about the condition of the children and whether some asylum seekers could be moved to New Zealand.
It comes after MSF officers were suddenly ordered to leave the island last week by the Nauru government, which determined their services to asylum seekers "were no longer required".
After the decision, the MSF publicly blasted conditions on the island, highlighting that children as young as nine had told their staff they would rather die than live in a state of hopelessness in detention.
The group said at least 78 patients it had seen in detention over the past year had contemplated suicide or self harm.
"It is absolutely disgraceful to say that MSF's mental health care is no longer required; the mental health situation of the refugees indefinitely held on Nauru is devastating," MSF psychiatrist Beth O'Connor said.
"Over the past 11 months on Nauru, I have seen an alarming number of suicide attempts and incidents of self-harm among the refugee and asylum seeker men, women and children we treat.
"We were particularly shocked by the many children suffering from traumatic withdrawal syndrome, where their status deteriorated to the extent they were unable to eat, drink, or even walk to the toilet."
The Australian Medical Association has also called for children to be immediately transferred to Australia for proper medical care.
Greens Senator Nick McKim said today Dr Montana's deportation "confirms that there is no way for Australia's prisoners on Nauru to receive proper medical support."
Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne and Prime Minister Morrison have indicated the government is more likely to be open to accepting New Zealand's offer to take 150 refugees if Labor and the Greens backed Coalition legislation implementing a lifetime ban on refugees ever coming to Australia.
"The government is not looking in any way to weaken our very strong border protection policies," Senator Payne told ABC radio this morning after Mr Morrison yesterday urged the Senate to sign off on laws.
She insisted the government hadn't only become open to the plan after political pressure from its own ranks or ahead of the Wentworth by-election.
"It's not that the government has become open to it, we have reminded the community and we have reminded the parliament that there has been a bill sitting in the senate since 2016 that would deal with the loophole issue in relation to movement between New Zealand and Australia," Senator Payne said.
"Closing the loopholes would remove one of those hurdles."
Labor has hit back arguing the ban didn't need to be in place for the Turnbull Government to make a deal with the US to accept refugees.
Senator Payne said today there were "very different arrangements between the United States and New Zealand in terms of entry into Australia".
Earlier this week, Labor leader Bill Shorten wrote to Mr Morrison to say the current situation on Nauru was "untenable" and a solution was needed.
"This is about making sure vulnerable and sick children in Australia's care can receive the medical treatment they need," he wrote.