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Australia's top doctor on Nauru, Nicole Montana, arrested and set to be deported

A senior Australian doctor offering medical care to refugees on Nauru has been arrested by police and will be deported from the island later today.

The ABC has confirmed Dr Nicole Montana was detained by police yesterday evening.

Dr Montana works for the health contractor IHMS and is the most senior Australian health professional currently working on the island.

The ABC understands Dr Montana was detained because she took a photo of a child being treated at the regional processing centre on Nauru.

The Government of Nauru forbids doctors and other medical workers from photographing their patients in order to prevent leaks to the media and refugee advocates.

Australian Government sources say Nauruan officials probably suspected that Dr Montana was planning to leak the photo — but they maintain that was unlikely, suggesting Dr Montana was treated unfairly.

Another source said the Nauruan Government was becoming "increasingly paranoid".

In a statement, IHMS said its "Senior Medical Officer was stood down on 16 October 2018 for a breach of Regional Processing Centre rules."

"A replacement Senior Medical Officer is already in Nauru, there has been no impact on the services provided to transferees," the statement said.

The relationship between the Nauru Government and Australian medical professionals working on the island has deteriorated rapidly this year.

Only last month Dr Montana's predecessor Dr Christopher Jones was also deported from Nauru, after a disagreement over medical transfers of the refugees.

And earlier this month Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF) workers were abruptly kicked off the island after Nauru cancelled its contract to provide mental health services to both refugees and residents.

In a statement issued on Friday, the Nauruan Government defended the move by saying MSF were not in the country to help Nauruans but rather were "political activists" in their referencing of the island nation as an "open air prison".

Doctors groups have also warned of a mental health crisis on Nauru and have been pressing the Government to allow children on the island to come to Australia for medical care.

In a statement a spokesperson for the Department of Home Affairs said the arrest was "a matter for the Government of Nauru and IHMS".

"A replacement Senior Medical Officer is in Nauru. There has been no impact to the continuity of care for transferees," the statement said.

Dr Montana is expected to be put on a flight arriving in Brisbane late this afternoon.

The Nauru Government and IHMS have both been approached for comment.

Greens senator Nick McKim said offshore processing is "crumbling before our eyes".

"This is a humanitarian emergency, and Scott Morrison has lost control of his detention centres," Senator McKim said.
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