Federal Government tears down life-saving Medevac laws

Today marks a devastating development in Australia’s treatment of refugees and people seeking asylum.

The Federal Government has repealed the Medevac laws – laws which were saving lives. Laws which put doctors, not politicians, at the heart of decisions about critically ill people held in offshore detention.

The repeal has stripped bare the statute of laws that allowed independent Australia doctors to recommend medical transfers for critically unwell people detained offshore.

In doing so, the Government has again turned its back on the rights and lives of women and men still detained indefinitely offshore. It has stripped away a fundamental safeguard that helped to ensure vital medical treatment for seriously unwell refugees held by the Australian Government on Nauru and in PNG.

These laws were proven to be absolutely necessary – and there was simply no reason for repeal. They provided a lifeline of last resort for seriously ill people to access medical treatment they desperately needed.

The Medevac laws were working. And the Government approved the vast majority of Medevac applications. Removing a fair, medically-led process for accessing life-saving treatment is inhumane, completely unjustified – and unconscionable. It’s also dangerous.

Together with others, we fought to save these live-saving laws. Across parliament, policy-makers, the public – and through the media – we worked around the clock to explain why, as a matter of health and humanity, these laws were necessary.

Right up until last minute before the repeal, we continued to take legal action – with our partners – to ensure that as many people as possible could have their cases assessed in the face of Government delays undermining the process.

Having repealed laws that saved lives, it is incumbent upon the Federal Government to urgently evacuate people already approved for transfer under the laws. They must also explain how they will avoid a return to the dangerous neglect of critically ill people which existed for years before the Medevac laws.

One thing is clear: removing these life-saving laws does not remove the need for urgent evacuation of critically ill women and men still trapped offshore.  Nor does it remove the duty of the Australian Government to meet these needs.

We will continue in our work until every single woman and man on Nauru and in PNG are evacuated from this cruelty to safety.

Thank you for your ongoing support.

Yours sincerely,

David Manne
Executive Director & Principal Solicitor
Refugee Legal