Statement from the Victorian Refugee Health Network on the escalating violence in Palestine and Israel
The Victorian Refugee Health Network recognises the recent atrocities that have occurred in Israel and that continue to occur within the Occupied Territories of Palestine including Gaza and the West Bank. These events are inflicting enduring and devastating humanitarian consequences including extensive suffering, loss of life and widespread trauma.
On the 6th December, UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, invoked Article 99 due to the “existing threats to the maintenance of international peace and security” in the regions. He stated that “More than 8 weeks of hostilities in Gaza and Israel have created appalling suffering, physical destruction and collective trauma across Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory”. On 7th October more than 1200 people were killed in Israel, thousands injured, an estimated 250 people abducted, with more than 100 still captive. At the time this communication was issued it was reported that as a result of Israel’s military operation in Gaza “more than 15,000 people have reportedly been killed, over 40 per cent of whom were children. Thousands of others have been injured.” The constant bombardment by Israel’s Defence Forces in Gaza is having devastating impacts including the significant number of civilian casualties, the displacement of over 80% of the population of 2.2 million civilians and has rendered humanitarian assistance impossible. Guterres also reported that hospitals in Gaza are being “turned into battlegrounds.” These figures have since increased since the date this letter was written, and the situation is being described as a humanitarian catastrophe.
The Network aims to build trust and confidence, promote the safety, health, and wellbeing of the community through being accountable to all people from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds and advocate for the needs of the community.
In any conflict, under International Humanitarian Law, the protection of civilians is paramount. The protection of hospital and health facilities are also mandated under these laws. In line with our values, the Network supports the call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire to protect civilians from escalating violence, to lift the blockade so that permanent humanitarian aid is accessible in Gaza and for all parties to ensure the safe release of all hostages.
The Australian Commonwealth government has announced that Palestinians and Israelis have been granted ‘temporary visas’ to Australia. The Victorian Refugee Health Network has been coordinating a meeting with the refugee, community and health sector to help coordinate services and identify and respond to health issues and emerging needs for this group of arrivals in Victoria.
In Victoria, there are many communities who are understandably distressed by these international events.
Please find below some resources that are available and may be suitable during this time:
Department of Health guidance on free public health care in Victoria for people fleeing the Israel-Palestine conflict: “people fleeing the Israel-Palestine conflict who arrived in Australia on a visa subclass 600 (Visitor visa) will have free access to health services in Victoria”.
Health Resources for new arrivals into Victoria: The Network has been collating information on health resources for new arrivals who do not have access to Medicare.
- Department of Health’s asylum seeker policy: ‘Hospital access for people seeking asylum’ applies for this cohort.
- ‘How to receive Medical Services’: the Australian Islamic Medical Association has released advice in English and Arabic.
- Asylum Seeker Health Services: can be found on the Networks website.
- Foundation House counselling service support: Foundation House provides counselling service support, for more information please contact the Intake team.
- Foundation House Additional Supports: Foundation House has a number of additional services that are available for people who are currently impacted by the situation. Please see below a list of the services that are currently being offered:
- Foundation House can provide psychoeducation sessions at any events or sessions happening in the community.
- Foundation House can provide debriefing and/or supervision sessions for organisations and/or groups of health care professionals who are impacted by the situation and require support.
- Please reach out to Foundation House’s Middle East Crisis Response Team for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Witness to War Hotline: Witness to War is a national multilingual telephone hotline for people affected by overseas conflicts.
- Find My Family: Restoring Family Links: Help with tracing families and finding missing loved ones. This service run by Red Cross is free of charge and confidential.
- Refugee Legal Hotline: provides legal assistance for people impacted by the Israel-Gaza crisis, including people from Lebanon and surrounding countries. Call Please call 03 9413 0107 for legal support.
If you, your community or other organisations have any further queries or would like to share more resources related to health for recent arrivals, please contact email@example.com