Nauru restricts medical transfers

Thursday February 21, 2019 Written by Published in Regional

NAURU – Nauru’s government has rushed through new laws to prevent residents being granted medical transfers based on online recommendations.



Australian lawyer and refugee advocate George Newhouse said the Nauruan laws made it clear the country was preparing to block medical transfers requested by Australia, and meant refugees and asylum seekers were effectively “prisoners” of Nauru.

The law, dated February 15,  followed the passage of new law in Canberra that grants doctors greater power to compel the transfer of sick refugees to Australia.

Fairfax reports Australia’s new law could be undermined by Nauru’s new law, which signals Nauru could block medical transfers.

It says transfers will not be approved on the recommendation of an overseas doctor by a online telemedicine diagnosis.

Doctors recommending transfers will also have to declare the required treatment is not available on Nauru and the reasons why.

Last week, doctor Nick Martin, who treated refugees on Nauru and blew the whistle on Canberra’s refusal of his transfer requests, predicted Nauru’s Overseas Medical Referral committee would be a stumbling block to Australia’s new law.

About 500 refugees remain on Nauru whose indefinite detention by Australia is Nauru’s main source income.

Lawyer Newhouse from the National Justice Project said someone may die because of the laws and Nauru will be responsible.

“I’m incredibly concerned that the Nauruan government has passed laws which effectively hold extremely ill people prisoners on Nauru. For what purpose, I cannot fathom.

“Some people have suggested this has got to do with money and the act that the Nauru government earns, at least $2000 a month for every head that they hold on Nauru.

“I’m not sure if that is the government’s motivation, but it is certainly extremely difficult to understand what the logic is behind this legislation unless you look at it through that prism.”

About 500 refugees remain on Nauru whose indefinite detention by Australia is Nauru’s main source income.

Newhouse said Nauru’s government, which has not commented publicly on the new laws, was playing “politics with people’s lives”.

“If Nauru is going to play politics with people’s lives and put people’s lives at risk, then it’s clear that they’re not a suitable place for offshore detention and Australia should reconsider whether anyone should be housed on Nauru at all.”

Meanwhile, Australia’s government has confirmed that sick refugees transferred from Nauru or PNG will be sent to Christmas Island for treatment, not the mainland.

Home Affairs secretary Michael Pezzullo confirmed on Monday that the government intended to transfer any sick refugees and asylum seekers to Australia’s remote Christmas Island unless they required specialised treatment only available on the mainland.

The detention centre on Christmas Island was mothballed last year, but Prime Minister Scott Morrison has ordered it to be reopened in the wake of the medical transfer bill passing the Parliament last week.

On Tuesday morning, Morrison said it was not immediately clear how the new Nauruan law would affect the fate of refugees and asylum seekers sent to the island by Australia.

“It’s not quite clear what they’ve done and how that will play out,” he said.           - PNC

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