Disappointing Medevac result leaves sick refugees in limbo

4 December 2019
Social Justice law firm Maurice Blackburn Lawyers has today slammed the repeal of Medevac Bill in the Senate, saying the decision would see sick refugees left in limbo and health decisions back in the hands of bureaucrats rather than medical professionals.

Maurice Blackburn head of Social Justice Jennifer Kanis said today’s outcome was a cruel blow to the sick refugees still detained on Nauru and Manus, who once again faced the prospect of lengthy legal battles to get the medical care they need.

The firm currently acts for a number of clients who were brought to Australia for medical treatment prior to the Medevac legislation being implemented, as well as acting for clients on Nauru who have been approved for medical removal and are waiting for this to occur.

“Today’s result is bitterly disappointing – the Medevac Bill was saving lives, with decisions about the care of sick refugees on Nauru and Manus being made by doctors, as should always be the case,” Ms Kanis said.

“The Medevac Bill provided a clear and transparent process to ensure people in offshore detention could be brought to Australia for medical treatment and it was working.

“Instead, what we will now see is a return to the days where sick refugees will be left with few options but to seek the intervention of the courts to get the care they need, because we know that high-level care for complex cases is not available on Nauru or Manus.

“Before Medevac, legal proceedings were often the only option available to many refugees to secure such care because the Federal Government was not ensuring proper medical care was provided.

“With the repeal of Medevac today, refugees in need of such treatment will once again have no other option but to seek the intervention of the court to get the care they need.

“Not only is having to use a legal process to get vital medical care wrong and risks delaying urgent treatment, it is also incredibly time consuming, costly and requires significant court resources.

“This is an incredibly disappointing result for all people still languishing in offshore detention and for the many thousands of doctors, advocates and others who worked tirelessly to ensure a better and more humane approach to how we treat people in our care.

“Our firm stands ready to continue to assist in light of today’s developments in doing whatever we can, including through court action, to ensure that people in offshore detention get urgent medical treatment when they need it,” she said.

Media inquiries: Jade Knight on 0417 969 438 or via jknight@mauriceblackburn.com.au

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