Today’s repealing of the Medevac legislation will prolong the pain of refugees who have been suffering at the hands of the Australian Government for more than six years, the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) says.
RCOA CEO Paul Power said the Senate vote removes legislation designed to end political and bureaucratic interference in decisions about how best to treat the medical needs of the refugees and people seeking asylum held by Australia in Papua New Guinea and Nauru.
“We and millions of Australians supported the passing of the Medevac legislation because we wanted to see medical decisions made by medical practitioners, not by bureaucrats and contractors trying to second guess the wishes of their political masters in Canberra,” Mr Power said.
“The repeal that has been pushed through by the Australia Government is not only needlessly cruel. It is dangerous. Make no mistake, removing this legislation puts people’s lives at risk. Successive Australian Governments’ treatment of the people they have detained offshore has created an acute health crisis, which has been greatly exacerbated by their subsequent mismanagement.”
Before this legislation was introduced, 12 people died in offshore detention. The coroner’s inquest into the death of Hamid Khazaei found that it was the result of compounding errors in the treatment he received, and could have been prevented.
“Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has pushed this repeal through for no reason beyond cheap political point-scoring. Statistics released since February show that the legislation was working as intended and recent polls show that the majority of the Australian public supported it. The vast majority of Medevac transfers occurred with Mr Dutton’s approval, as much as he might try to hide it. In forcing this repeal, he has made his own life more difficult, done a disservice to our country, and exacted another cruel blow on a group of people who have already suffered unspeakably at Australia’s hands.”
RCOA is now calling on the Government to honour the transfer of those people in medical need who have already been approved under the Medevac provisions, and to urgently find a long-term, safe solution for the 535 people still detained offshore.
“The onus now lies with the Australian Government to resolve this crisis and do the right thing by the hundreds of people who are suffering at their hands. They must urgently find a long-term, safe solution for these people,” Mr Power said. “RCOA thanks all of those who have tirelessly advocated for Medevac and worked so hard to protect it. We have been honoured to work with a wide spectrum of people over the last year in campaigning for, implementing and defending this legislation. In particular, we would like to thank the doctors who have dedicated huge amounts of time in addition to their clinical practice to help people detained offshore receive the medical care they urgently required.”
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