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Senator Lambie must stand on the right side of humane refugee Medevac laws

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Media Release Human Rights Law Centre | For immediate release: Monday 25 November 2019

Senator Lambie must stand on the right side of humane refugee Medevac laws

The Human Rights Law Centre today urged the Australian Senate to reject the Morrison Government’s Medevac repeal bill - the Migration Amendment (Repairing Medical Transfers) Bill 2019 - which has been listed for debate in Parliament on Wednesday.

The Medevac laws work by putting doctors, not politicians, at the heart of decisions about people’s medical care. These laws, passed in February 2019, allow doctors to recommend people be evacuated from Nauru and Papua New Guinea to Australia for medical treatment.

David Burke, Legal Director with the Human Rights Law Centre, said prior to the Medevac laws, sick refugees were forced to take legal action to receive proper medical treatment.

“Before the Medevac laws, people were forced to go to court to get the medical care they urgently needed. We were in court at all hours, on weekends and even on Christmas Eve to secure medical evacuations. No one should have to rely on the court system to get proper medical care.”

Mr Burke called on the Senate and crossbencher Senator Jacqui Lambie to reject the Morrison Government’s repeal bill and keep the Medevac laws in place.

“Senator Lambie can vote for humanity and compassion by saving the Medevac laws. We must not return to a process that saw politicians and bureaucrats ignore doctors’ recommendations for medical transfers, sometimes for years on end.”

“The Australian Government’s failure to provide proper medical care has already led to tragic consequences. Twelve people from offshore detention died before the Medevac laws were passed. Most of those deaths were the result of physical or mental health conditions that were inadequately treated.”

“The Medevac laws are working and are ensuring that doctors, not politicians, are making decisions about medical care. They must not be repealed.”

Under the Medevac laws, the Minister has an express ability to veto a medical transfer on specific grounds. The laws only apply to people in Australia’s offshore detention regime between July 2013 and March 2019. The laws do not apply to anyone who might arrive by boat in the future.

Media contact:

Michelle Bennett, Communications Director, Human Rights Law Centre, 0419 100 519