Australia to send asylum seekers needing medical attention to ‘prison-like’ facility on remote island

  07 March 2019    Read: 1456
Australia to send asylum seekers needing medical attention to ‘prison-like’ facility on remote island

Australia’s prime minister Scott Morrison has said asylum seekers currently held in migrant camps on two island nations in the Pacific will not be transported to the Australian mainland if they require medical treatment, but will instead be sent to a prison-like facility on another remote island.

The strategy, which aims to prevent asylum seekers from reaching Australia, will see those requiring medical attention flown to Christmas Island – an Australian territory closer to the Indonesian capital Jakarta than the Australian mainland.

Mr Morrison flew to Christmas Island on Wednesday to announce the strategy, where he told reporters the plans would stop refugees from seeking to “game the system to come to Australia”.

Critics of the plan say the Australian island doesn't have the necessary facilities to deal with a broad range of medical issues, including provision for mental health or childbirth.

Jon Stanhope, the Commonwealth-appointed administrator on Christmas Island from 2012 to 2014, told ABC he did not think the healthcare facilities were adequate to deal with ill asylum seekers.

He said: “No operations can be done on Christmas Island, women haven't given birth on the island I think for some decades now, there's a very minimal level of services in the hospital as currently configured and staffed.”

He added: “The majority of residents of Christmas Island that have health issues travel to Perth, indeed some of the islanders of Malaysian or Chinese heritage actually do go to Singapore or to Malaya (Malaysia) for some of their health services, I know many of the members of the Malay community have their dental needs met by dentists in Malaya.”

Since 2013, Australia has paid Nauru and Papua New Guinea to accommodate almost 1,000 asylum seekers who have attempted to reach the Australian coastline by boat.

Boats carrying asylum seekers from Africa, the Middle East and Asia had been arriving daily from Indonesian ports, but the smuggling attempts have all but stopped since the government announced no refugee who arrives by boat will ever be allowed to settle in Australia.

The government began reopening a mothballed migration camp on Christmas Island in December when political parties outside the government passed a law allowing doctors rather than bureaucrats to decide which asylum seekers can come to Australia for hospital treatment.

The distance, as the crow flies, between Nauru and Christmas Island is 6,867.43 km (4,267.22 miles).


The Independent

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