Australia to deport sick refugees to Nauru island

Australian government plans to deport refugees with life threatening illnesses to Nauru Pacific island

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Michael Pezzullo, Secretary of the department of immigration and border protection at an Australian Senate Estimates Committee in Parliament House, Canberra, February 8, 2016

Updated May 12, 2016

Australia's plan to deport some 267 asylum seekers to Nauru Pacific island attracts criticism as several of them are struggling with cancer and other life threatening illnesses, a government official stated on Monday.

The country’s government has already been given the green light to proceed from Australia’s High Court.

The decision allows Australia to deport asylum seekers to Nauru rock island about 3,000 km (1,800 miles) northeast of Australia.

The United Nations strongly objected to Australia’s decision while church leaders offered asylum seekers sanctuary.

But asylum seekers in the offshore centre of the island have allegedly faced sexual assaults and child abuse while in detention.

Secretary of the department of immigration and border protection Michael Pezzullo said that the deportations will soon start while asylum seekers with health problems will be dealt with in a staged fashion, in accordance with their condition.

"In some cases we're talking about cancer, we're talking about all sorts of long-run illnesses," he told a parliamentary hearing.

"Regrettably in some cases, for reasons to do with very long-term, and indeed potentially terminal illnesses, some folks, I suspect, will be here for quite a while."

The Australian refugee policy states that asylum seekers who try to reach the country by sea are sent to Nauru or Manus islands in Papua New Guinea but they can never resettle in the country.

Such a ruling is supported by the Liberal Party of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the centre-left Labour Party.

Both parties claim that the policy is the most effective way to avoid refugee deaths at sea, in the way Europe is currently dealing with. 

In the meantime, veteran politician Philip Ruddock has been appointed as Australia’s first special envoy for human rights.

"Australia has a strong record of promoting and protecting human rights, at home and around the world," Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said in a statement.

"Mr Ruddock will be reflecting the government's commitment to further strengthening Australia's contribution to advancing human rights," he added.

Author: Ioanna Sakoufaki

TRTWorld and agencies