Australia lifts jail threat for doctors treating refugees

Lawyers say the Australian government has quietly lifted the threat of jailing doctors who speak out against child abuse and neglect of asylum seekers in detention.

Doctors for Refugees, a volunteer organization, launched a High Court challenge in July to the constitutional validity of secrecy provisions within the Border Force Act. Doctors argue the provisions gag them from speaking publicly about conditions in Australia-run immigration camps on remote islands.

Lawyer Meghan Fitzgerald said Thursday the doctors' legal team discovered in court documents this week that the government had exempted health professionals from the secrecy provisions shortly before lodging its legal defense.

Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A government website confirms the change occurred on Oct. 1.