Tue, Jul 02, 2019 - Page 5 News List

Canberra being cruel ‘for cruelty’s sake’: senator

‘DEHUMANIZE’:The Australian government is mistreating refugees brought to the country for medical care in hopes that they will leave voluntarily, Senator Nick McKim said

The Guardian

Australia’s Labor and Green parties have voiced concern about “punitive” and “cruel” treatment of refugees brought to the country for medical treatment, after revelations that dozens were detained in dirty and restrictive conditions at a Brisbane hotel.

Guardian Australia on Sunday reported that a cohort of refugees had been kept in the hotel, under heavy guard, for up to six months.

They shared photographs of bugs in their rooms and complained about the invasive treatment by Serco security staff.

Many remain in the medical care of IHMS, the company contracted to provide healthcare services on Manus Island and Nauru.

Shadow home affairs minister Kristina Keneally said medical transfers existed so that vulnerable people could receive care not available in offshore detention.

Australian Minister for Home Affairs “Peter Dutton should not use medical transfers in a punitive fashion and must ensure conditions in Australia don’t further exacerbate medical conditions people are being treated for,” Keneally told Guardian Australia.

“Of course, if there is a risk to the community, it is necessary people are held in immigration detention. In fact, it is a legislative requirement that anyone who is transferred here must be placed in held detention unless the minister expressly approved their release into the community,” she said.

“The law makes clear medical transfers are only temporary, but the home affairs minister needs to explain what the long-term resettlement plans are for the thousand people and their family members he has transferred to Australia for medical purposes,” Keneally said.

The Greens’ immigration spokesman Australian Senator Nick McKim described the conditions detailed in the report as “cruelty for cruelty’s sake.”

“It’s invasive and completely unnecessary,” he said. “It’s the deliberate continuation of a system that’s designed to dehumanize people ... it’s a continuation of that bloody-minded cruelty that we’ve seen on Manus and Nauru.”

“For refugees brought to Australia from offshore detention on orders to receive medical treatment, their legal situation is perilous. They do not have a visa or status in Australia, and can be detained and moved at the whim of authorities,” McKim said.

The home affairs minister has the ability to grant a “residence determination” that would allow a refugee to live in the community while legally remaining in immigration detention.

McKim said people should be allowed to live in the community unless a court decided they needed to be detained.

“I think the government’s plan is to be as cruel and create as much harm for these people as they can in the hope they’re going to voluntarily leave,” he said. “It’s the same model as what you’ve got on Manus and Nauru.”

The government of Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is attempting to negotiate the repeal of the medevac legislation, which makes easier the transfer of refugees from offshore detention to Australia for medical reasons.

The Australian Department of Home Affairs did not respond to a request for comment last week about the cohort’s detention, including questions about why people were being kept in the hotel for longer timeframes.

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