ALHR slams government move to repeal Medevac legislation
Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) has condemned the federal government for seeking to repeal the Medevac legislation, noting its importance in ensuring Australia complies with its obligations under the refugee convention.
Last week saw the Migration Amendment (Repairing Medical Transfers) Bill 2019 pass the House of Representatives, following a federal government move to attempt to repeal the Medevac legislation.
ALHR is calling on the Senate to vote against the bill, saying such legislation is vital in ensuring Australia complies with its international obligations under the refugee convention and international human rights law.
“Since the Medevac legislation came into force on 2 March 2019, it has contributed to ensuring that vulnerable people receive urgent medical treatment when they need it,” said Jessica Bayley, chair of ALHR’s refugee rights subcommittee.
“It creates a vital framework whereby the people best placed to assess medical treatment needs – medical professionals – do so in an orderly and timely manner and advise the federal government accordingly.
“Despite the fact that the federal government had the power to facilitate medical transfers before the legislation came into force, the federal government regularly ignored medical transfer requests. People in urgent need of medical treatment were then forced to commence protracted Federal Court proceedings and face significant delays in accessing the treatment they needed.”
In addition, Ms Bayley said: “It is clear the Medevac legislation is operating as intended”.
“The number of approvals and medical transfers to Australia since the legislation commenced is the evidence of this. Further, there is no evidence to support the various concerns raised by the federal government in relation to ‘opening the floodgates’ to fabricated medical claims, displacing Australians from medical services, allowing dangerous people to enter Australia, or ‘restarting the boats’.”
ALHR President Kerry Weste offered a similar sentiment, adding that the consequences of repealing such legislation would be detrimental.
“Offshore processing has created desperately unsafe conditions for the people who Australia has subjected to it, many for more than six years,” Ms Weste said.
“Twelve people have lost their lives, including eight people who have died as a result of suicide and inadequate healthcare. The conditions have caused significant mental and physical damage to individuals and have been overwhelmingly condemned on the international stage.”
“Instead of seeking to repeal the Medevac legislation, the federal government should be focused on facilitating medical transfers as required and preventing any further harm or deaths as a result of offshore processing. ALHR has grave concerns that if the Medevac legislation is repealed the current offshore processing death toll will rise.”