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Immigration Health and Advisory Group disbanded

Immigration Health and Advisory Group disbanded

Migration agents in Australia may be interested to learn the government has decided to disband the Immigration Health and Advisory Group (IHAG). The recent announcement made quite the media stir and has polarised people and organisations.

The Australian government recently made public its controversial decision to dissolve IHAG and replace it with one advisor. IHAG was established in 2006 to provide the government with objective advice on the health of asylum seekers and related topics.

Many have expressed anger and frustration towards the decision, including the Australian Media Association (AMA), which recently released a statement on the subject.

AMA President Dr Steve Hambledon said the government sorely needs appropriate advice on the health of asylum seekers and expressed concern this would not be able to be provided without the IHAG.

"The health and mental health conditions asylum seekers experience are often multiple and complex, and the Immigration Department needs to avail itself of sound health and medical advice from a number of disciplines," Dr Hambledon asserted.

"IHAG had the capacity to provide this sort of advice. It is regrettable that the Department has disbanded this group."

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) released a statement in response to criticism defending its actions, explaining that although the IHAG will be disbanded there will still be an advisory member providing the government with support.

Speaking on the behalf of the DIBP, Secretary Martin Bowles said IHAG was never a ministerial body and has therefore been subject to change over the years.

"IHAG has existed in a variety of forms for a number of years to provide advice to the Secretary and the department as required," Mr Bowles said.

"The large membership of the group made it increasingly challenging to provide balanced, consistent and timely advice in a fast-moving policy and operational environment, and therefore the decision was made to disband the group and replace it with an independent health advisor."

He went on to add that the role of advisor has already been filled by the current IHAG Chair, Dr Paul Alexander, who will be able to draw on the advice on others when necessary.

"I am confident this new arrangement will continue to ensure the provision of quality health and welfare services to all people in immigration detention and that the department receives timely and professional advice on all areas of immigration health," Mr Bowles said.

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