Nauru refugees decline medical transfers out of fear

A cluster of corrugated iron huts resembling military barracks jut out of Nauru's sweltering rocky landscape to reveal refugee settlement camp number five, a place defined by desperation and rarely visited by outsiders. (Photo by Mike LEYRAL / AFP) Photo: AFP or licensors

RADIO NZ – 9:12 pm on 10 September 2020 Share this

Benjamin Robinson-Drawbridge, RNZ Pacific Journalist

A group of 10 refugees and asylum seekers were transferred last week to Darwin, where they are being quarantined in a hotel.

Refugee advocate Ian Rintoul said others declined to go.

“They are likely to find themselves in closed detention in Australia, in worse circumstances than they were in on Nauru,” Rintoul said.

“Many of the people who have been transferred for medical treatment have been in detention for well over 12 months and have not got that medical treatment.”

About 200 refugees transferred from offshore detention in Papua New Guinea and Nauru under the now repealed ‘medevac law’ remain locked up in immigration detention centres and hotels deemed Alternative Places of Detention.

Rintoul said “up to half” had not received medical care, while all feared a proposed law change that could allow their mobile phones to be confiscated.

“News about that had reached Nauru. People who had been approached and some who had signed to accept the transfer from Nauru to Australia heard about the risk of their phones being taken off them,” Rintoul said.

“They already knew that people who had been transferred had not got the medical treatment and it was enough for them to decide that it was too big a risk.”Ian Rintoul (right) on Manus Island with Abdul Aziz Muhamat and Behrouz Boochani.

Ian Rintoul (right) on Manus Island with Abdul Aziz Muhamat and Behrouz Boochani. Photo: Behrouz Boochani

Of 3127 people detained offshore by Australia since July 2013, 360 remained in July 2020, 180 in Nauru and 180 in PNG.

The advocate said most of the 10 brought to Australia last week had been approved for medical transfers under the medevac law “well before December 2019” when the legislation was repealed.

“The government ignored medical advice and has shamefully denied medical treatment to people for another ten months,” he said.

“To be blunt, the people who came from Nauru to Australia are not the 10 who would have come if the sole criteria had have been medical urgency. That’s the problem we’ve got with the decisions being made by politicians and not doctors.”


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