Albanese Government must support Bill to evacuate refugees held offshore due to be voted on next week
March 4, 2023
The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre urges Albanese Government to support legislation, which will compel the transfer of around 160 refugees held offshore in PNG and Nauru to Australia, scheduled to be voted on in the Senate on March 8.
The Migration Amendment (Evacuation to Safety) Bill 2023 is currently before the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, following its introduction by Greens Senator Nick McKim on 6 February 2023. The committee will release a report on the legislation on 7 March and it is expected it will then be debated and voted on in the Senate the following day.
The ASRC, along with dozens of other organisations and individuals, provided submissions to the Inquiry, calling on the Albanese Government to support the Bill. The ASRC works closely with people held offshore as they resist and continue to expose the cruelty inflicted upon them and secure their rights that have been denied. ASRC’s submission, which was informed by the stories, struggles and resistance of numerous refugees held offshore and recently evacuated, has not yet been made public by the Committee.
There is currently no clear, fair or humane system to evacuate people held offshore for urgent medical treatment. Refugees held in PNG and Nauru, many with family in Australia, have waited years to be transferred for urgent medical care, with no clear process on who can approve a transfer for it to occur quickly.
The Bill will remove the uncertainty and chaos around the current transfer process while ensuring refugees who have been held offshore for nearly 10 years are no longer denied their rights. This Bill is also completely in line with the ALP’s stated policy concerning medical transfer for people held offshore and other policies.
Qarar, a refugee held in Nauru, said: “In February 2021, 14 people were on a flight to Sydney, the ABF that night called me, [saying] ‘you are not on this flight, you will be on the next flight,’ and then nothing happened. I cannot tolerate this situation anymore, I am suffering, please help me.”
Mohammad, a refugee and Hazara from Afghanistan held in PNG, said: “My hopes are to be with family, find work, stand on my own feet, feel independent and feel like a human. To have a peaceful life. Just do not forget us and hopefully, you can help us get out of this situation. We are stuck and cannot do anything to change our life for the better.”
Said, a refugee recently transferred to Australia from Nauru for medical treatment, four years after a recommendation for transfer, said: “When I was in Nauru, it closed my mind and brain. Now in Australia, my brain has started working again. I didn’t know the taste of life and future until I came to Australia.”
Hussien, a refugee recently transferred to Australia from Nauru for medical treatment, two years after a recommendation for transfer, said: “When we go to the hospital they are tortured – they are pointing to each other – Republic of Nauru (RON) hospital say go to IHMS and IHMS say go to RON, they are pointing to each other. They treated us like animals they didn’t give chance to explain our problem.”
Shariff, a refugee held in Nauru, said: “It is important to get evacuated because we do not get any treatment here in Nauru. Last year I had a fever, and I went to RPC1 to meet the doctor, it was very hot – they called the police, and not the doctor, they threw me in the car and tore my clothes.”
Hiren, a refugee recently transferred to Australia from Nauru for medical treatment, said: “People are getting crazy. Health issues are worsening. People are scared for their safety. Locals swear at refugees. Get people out of this situation please. They are under a lot of stress and face a great uncertainty. Pay attention to the corruption and torture that is continuing to go on in offshore detention.”
Rajah, a Tamil refugee held in Nauru, said: “I need both mental health and physical health care. I want to receive proper treatment and not go to Canada as a sick person. I will not be able to look after myself if my health issues are not resolved. I could get proper treatment in Australia. Every day is a struggle and suffering.”
Jamal a refugee held offshore, said: “Everyone here in detention is ill and they need treatment in Australia before they are resettled to a third country. We may not be able to receive proper treatment in the country of resettlement as there may be issues with lost or inconsistent medical records. We need treatment immediately in Australia.”
Ishmael, a refugee held in PNG, said: “We have been living in this situation for 10 years with no proper medical facilities. The Australian government is spending a lot of money on health care and security, but we are not getting the care and support we need, we are dying here and we are not getting the support we are supposed to have.”
Nur Mohammad, a refugee recently transferred to Australia from Nauru for medical treatment, said: “I come here now and I got the treatment, I feel a little better now. But do something, not just for me but for everyone else, for the next generation. We all have family, we have the same blood, we are human. For the next generation too. I want to see justice for my friends in Nauru and PNG. Open your hearts and minds and do something.”
Media contact: Sam Brennan email@example.com or 0428 973 324
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