One year since the Morrison Government repealed Medevac, sick people continue to suffer in detention

Media Release
3 December 2020

One year since the Morrison Government repealed the Medevac legislation over 200 refugees and people seeking asylum remain in detention, mostly trapped in suburban hotels, and many have not received the critical medical treatment they need.

Around 290 people remain in offshore processing, with approximately half in Papua New Guinea and half on Nauru, unable to access adequate health care and detained indefinitely. 

This week, an alliance of 122 legal, community, faith-based and human rights organisations are calling on the Morrison Government to immediately release all refugees from immigration detention and commit to a pathway for their resettlement.

There are over 20 community actions taking place around Australia, kicking off today, December 3rd, which marks one year since the Morrison Government repealed the Medevac legislation.

A further 1000 people, who were transferred to Australia for medical or other reasons, have been allowed to live in the community.

New Zealand’s long-standing offer to resettle 150 refugees remains.

Jean Ker Walsh, Chair of Grandmothers for Refugees:
“Our Covid-19 experiences of isolation and separation from family amplify the cruelty of holding already sick and highly vulnerable people in cramped, dehumanising conditions. For our shared humanity, and after so many years, they need to be freed to make their home here with us.”

Louise Redmond, National President of Rural Australians for Refugees (RAR):
“Medical treatment for sick people under the care of the Australian Government is a basic human right and responsibility.  Yet this Government has failed.  Refugees are locked in hotels awaiting medical treatment, for more than a year.  It’s wrong, it’s not acceptable.”

Dr Sara Townend, Director of Independent Doctors Network:
“Australian doctors work with people seeking asylum and refugees across a number of settings. We see first-hand the impact that detention has on physical and mental health. Providing durable and safe pathways towards resettlement needs to be a priority for these patients.’

Jana Favero, Director of Advocacy and Campaigns at Asylum Seeker Resource Centre:
“Despite people being transferred for medical treatment, the Government continues to neglect its duty of care towards refugees. The Government is ignoring the advice of medical experts, refusing to release people from detention and deliberately inflicting harm. It’s time for a plan for release and resettlement, after seven years, people need freedom and a home.”

Marie Hapke, Australian Refugee Action Network:
“It’s time to stop punishing refugees for seeking protection in Australia.  There is no justification for holding refugees in detention – it makes no sense, and is harmful.  These people should be free to live in our community – like us all, they need safety and a secure future.”     

Sarah Dale, Centre Director and Principal Solicitor of Refugee Advice and Casework Service (RACS):
“At RACS, we have worked with people held offshore and with those transferred for medical treatment to Australia. We have witnessed the suffering, the neglect and the devastating impact detention has had on their health. It’s unfathomable that this is how we treat people, who have already suffered so much and who are desperate to find safety. It’s beyond time that the Government took action to ensure everybody can find a safe home.”

Dr Graham Thom, Refugee Coordinator, Amnesty International Australia:
“The fact that so many unwell people are still stuck in detention after all this time is a terrible indictment on the Australian Government. They need to be safe, they need a home and they need to, finally, rebuild their lives.”

David Burke, Legal Director, Human Rights Law Centre:
“For seven years the Australian Government repeatedly laid bare its cruelty of innocent people in our care. There is no justification for the Morrison Government continuing to lock people up here and overseas. It must provide a permanent home for the people it has treated inhumanely for so long. This dark chapter in our history has to end.”

For media comment: Jana Favero 0438 829 651

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