Lawyers for sick refugees express disappointment over stalled Nauru bill
6 December 2018
Social justice law firm Maurice Blackburn says it is disappointed that a bill to get children and sick adults out of offshore detention for medical assessment and treatment in Australia has failed to pass the Australian Parliament today.
In late afternoon developments, the medical transfer bill passed the Senate, but was unable to be referred to the Lower House before it adjourned for the sitting year.
Jennifer Kanis, social justice practice manager at Maurice Blackburn, said: “It is extremely disappointing that these amendments to ensure the timely medical assessment, treatment and transfer of refugees and asylum seekers in offshore detention have stalled in Parliament.
“In failing to extend the parliamentary sitting to allow for both houses to vote on this bill before the end of the year, it appears the Government is putting politics before the health and wellbeing of refugees in its care.
“We are hopeful this bill will pass the Lower House when Parliament resumes in February, but we also want to remind the Government that it doesn’t need legislation to act.
“The Government has the power to bring all children and sick refugees in offshore detention to Australia now. It doesn’t need to wait for a bill to pass Parliament.
“Until the Government delivers on its responsibility to the health of these people in its care, we will continue to act for these refugees and take court action when needed to ensure they are getting appropriate medical treatment.”
Over the past 10 months, Maurice Blackburn has acted pro bono to get more than 20 critically ill people off Nauru. Many of these have been children, some as young as six months old.
“These cases involve refugees with serious physical and psychological conditions, including serious bacterial and viral infections, and resignation syndrome,” Ms Kanis said. “In a number of cases, the delay in access to medical treatment has risked serious and life-threatening consequences for our clients.
“Because of what we’ve seen through this work, we know the importance of ensuring these vulnerable adults and children get the medical care that they need as quickly as possible.
“The health crisis on Nauru and Manus also highlights the need to find a long-term and permanent solution for these people, most who have been found to be refugees. The uncertainty they experience over their future creates enormous stress and illness.”