Medevac legislation is vital and should not be repealed

July 29, 2019

Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) has condemned the Federal Government’s attempt to repeal the Medevac legislation via the Migration Amendment (Repairing Medical Transfers) Bill 2019, which passed the House of Representatives last week, and is calling on the Senate to vote against the Bill.

“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.”

“The Medevac legislation is an essential part of ensuring Australia complies with its international obligations under the Refugee Convention and international human rights law. 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.”

“It is clear the Medevac legislation is operating as intended. The number of approvals and medical transfers to Australia since the legislation commenced is 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’,” said Ms Bayley.

ALHR President Kerry Weste said, “Offshore processing has created desperately unsafe conditions for the people who Australia has  subjected to it, many for more than six years. 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.”

Contact: Matt Mitchell, ALHR media manager 0431 980 365.