Nauru: New law restricting essential medical transfers for refugees risks deadly consequences

Attorney-General Christian Porter

Attorney-General Christian Porter

Because Christmas Island is annexed from the mainland, refugee lawyers can not launch legal action to have asylum seekers remain in the country.

The government of Nauru has passed laws that will ban a medical transfer committee from looking at evidence from doctors who consult patients via the phone, or over the internet.

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. Authorities in Christmas Island indicated that they do not have specialists and are not equipped to deal with mental health illness.

The government will also use the island to treat asylum seekers now on Nauru and Manus who are granted a medical transfer to Australia.

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A day after Labor leader Bill Shorten said reopening the detention centre was "fine" if medical treatment "makes people well", his deputy Tanya Plibersek said the government still has some explaining to do. 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.

"How can it be safe for those people to be brought here by Peter Dutton but we need to open Christmas Island for anybody else? I'd like the government to explain that".

Attorney-General Christian Porter says legal advice raises doubts about the prospect of returning asylum seekers to offshore detention after they are treated.

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