Doctors Without Borders, the healthcare organisation which has been providing mental health services to asylum seekers currently detained in Australia‘s offshore detention program on Nauru, has revealed its staff have been ordered to leave the island.

In a statement, Doctors Without Borders said the Nauruan government advised them their services were no longer needed on Friday, despite what the organisation called a “beyond desperate” situation facing many of those detained.

On Saturday, the organisation responded to the decision.

“We are extremely concerned that the health of our patients may be affected by this decision and urge the authorities to grant us permission to continue our lifesaving work,” a statement read.

Doctors Without Borders had served on the island since November 2017, providing services at the Republic of Nauru Hospital and in private residences. They were also providing education on psychological and psychiatric care to local health care providers.

The news is the latest blow in an already dire situation. In August, a 12-year-old girl detained on the island attempted to set herself on fire, and advocates have successfully pressured the Australian government to bring several other children to our shores for urgent care, citing credible fears they may take their own lives.

In March, high-ranking UN official Indrika Ratwatte visited the island and urged Australia to consider the impact mandatory detention is having on young asylum seekers.

“I think the situation of children going the path of self-harm and suicide is symptomatic of the despair and hopelessness that is prevailing here,” Ratwatte said.

The Australian government has not commented on the removal of Doctors Without Borders’ staff from the island.

Source: Doctors Without Borders
Image: Jason Oxenham / AP