Concern over current medical situation of refugees and asylum-seekers at offshore-facilities in PNG and Nauru

On 14th October 2018, I wrote the following letter to Ken O’Dowd, MP for Flynn, to which I am yet to receive a response.

Dear Ken O’Dowd MP,

I am writing to express my concerns and to request urgent action from the Australian Government regarding the current situation of refugees and asylum-seekers at off-shore facilities in Papua New Guinea and Nauru.

In particular, I am alarmed at the continuing reports of deteriorating health and lack of medical care, with reports in the national media of very young children, as young as six, attempting self-harm [1]. The NGO Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) were providing medical attention, including mental health care to both the refugee and local populations, but was forced to leave Nauru by the Nauruan Government on 11 October 2018. They have described shock at the number of children suffering from traumatic withdrawal syndrome [2].

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) has stated that it believes that asylum seeker children and their families on Nauru must be removed to receive appropriate medical care [3]. On 11 October 2018, MSF called for the immediate evacuation of all asylum seekers [2] on Nauru.

Compounding the issue, the recent attempts by the Nauruan Government to block court-ordered transfers from the Island to Australia, which was described as a problem of the Australian government’s creation by federal court judge, Justice Debra Mortimer [4], obviously impedes on the urgent facilitation and reception of medical care and attention to those asylum seekers and refugees requiring it.

New Zealand has offered to take refugees from both Papua New Guinea and Nauru. On 12 October 2018, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) [5] urged the Australian Government to address what it described as, “a collapsing health situation,” and that Australia should accept,

“…New Zealand’s welcome and ongoing offer to take refugees from both Papua New Guinea and Nauru. In the absence of any other alternatives, UNHCR appeals for all refugees and asylum-seekers to be immediately brought from Papua New Guinea and Nauru to Australia, to avert further serious harm and loss of life.”

I do not believe that when progressive Australian Governments opted for the offshore and regional processing, that the current situation in which refugees and asylum seekers have taken their lives, and where children are attempting to was envisioned. There has to be a better way.

Australia prides itself as the country of a, “fair go”. Perhaps the best way Australia can live up to this, would be to accept New Zealand’s offer and at least give those families in Nauru and PNG a chance of a future with hope.

I request that you let the Minister David Coleman know that I, and other members of the Flynn constituency, want to see the refugees and asylum seekers removed from Nauru and Papua New Guinea, with the intention of either being sent to New Zealand or brought to Australia.

Kind Regards,

References
[1] N. Martin, “As doctors working on Nauru, we thought we were helping. Now I know we were not,” Guardian Australia, 12 October 2018. Available: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/oct/12/as-doctors-working-on-nauru-we-thought-we-were-helping-now-i-know-we-were-not [Accessed 14 October 2018].

[2] Médecins Sans Frontières, “Refugees’ lives in danger with MSF forced to end mental healthcare activities,” 11 October 2018. [Online]. Available: https://www.msf.org/msf-slams-decision-ends-critically-needed-mental-healthcare-nauru.

[3] Australia Medical Association, “AMA calls on Prime Minister to move asylum seeker children and families off Nauru to better health care,” Australia Medical Association, 20 September 2018. [Online]. Available: https://ama.com.au/media/ama-calls-prime-minister-move-asylum-seeker-children-and-families-nauru-better-health-care. [Accessed 14 October 2018].

[4] H. Davidson, “Nauru blocking refugee evacuations a problem of Australia’s creation –judge,” Guardian Australia, 25 September 2018. [Online]. Available: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/sep/25/nauru-blocking-refugee-evacuations-a-problem-of-australias-creation-judge. [Accessed 14 October 2018].

[5] UN Refugee Agency, “UNHCR urges Australia to evacuate off-shore facilities as health situation deteriorates,” UN Refugee Agency, 12 October 2018. [Online]. Available: http://www.unhcr.org/news/briefing/2018/10/5bc059d24/unhcr-urges-australia-evacuate-off-shore-facilities-health-situation-deteriorates.html. [Accessed 14 October 2018].