Nauru: Deterring essential medical transfers risks deadly consequences


Responding to news that the government of Nauru has passed a law severely restricting medical transfers to Australia for refugees and asylum seekers, Meghna Abraham, Director of Global Thematic Issues at Amnesty International, said:

“This move by the Nauru government is a dangerous and callous act that could have deadly consequences for the women, men and children whom Australia has exiled there.

“Nauru has failed to provide refugees with the health care they desperately need. Denying them medical transfers is yet another blow and demonstrates just how far the human rights of refugees have slipped down Nauru and Australia’s agendas.

“Australia’s offshore detention policy has cost lives. The government’s defeat in parliament last week shows that this deadly game is up. The real solution is for Australia to stop these unlawful and inhumane detention techniques, and ensure refugees and asylum seekers held on Nauru and Manus Island can access the health care and sanctuary they are entitled to.”

Background

The Nauru government has passed a law banning medical transfers based on telemedic assessments, effectively circumventing a law passed in Australia on 13 February, which allows refugees in Manus and Nauru needing urgent medical attention to be brought to Australia. 

Last week, immediately following the passing of the Australian law, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the re-opening of a detention centre on Christmas Island, which is Australian territory. Australia should comply with its international obligations and shut down the entire offshore detention system. Authorities in Christmas Island indicated that they do not have specialists and are not equipped to deal with mental health illness.