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National Refugee rallies say "hands off Medevac"

While the government ramps up the rhetoric and its misinformation campaign against the Medevac legislation, thousands of people will rally across Australia on Saturday 9 November to “defend the Medevac law’.

In Sydney, the rally will start at Town Hall, 2pm. Speakers will include: Faith Black (acknowledgement of country), Carolina Gottardo, Co-Convenor of the Catholic Alliance for People Seeking Asylum and Director, Jesuit Refugee Service, Australia (recently returned from Port Moresby); George Newhouse Principal lawyer National Justice project, Ali Justice for Refugees, Tamil refugee Saminda Kanapthi (by recording from Port Moresby), Dulce Munoz Mums for Refugees, NSW Greens MP, David Shoebridge, Matilda Fay, Refugee Action Coalition.

Since the Medevac legislation became law, around 140 refugees have been approved for medical transfer from Manus and Nauru to Australia. The vast majority of those people had been waiting for months and years, for medical treatment that was not available on Manus or Nauru.

“The Coalition is running a hypocritical campaign against the Medevac law,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition, “Peter Dutton routinely condemns the law, but behind closed doors he is approving the vast majority of the Medevac transfer applications without question.”

The government wants to return to the worst days when politicians could ignore medical advice and refugees could be denied medical treatment. Before the Medivac legislation a Somali refugee suffered for years with severe rectal bleeding from torture wounds, while the government did nothing to help. Refugees lost their teeth because the government would not transfer them for medical treatment. Others have lost their sight. Treatable kidney disease has turned into potential long term organ damage. Still others are suffering debilitating mental health problems because of deliberate government neglect.

Carolina Gottardo, Co-Convenor of the Catholic Alliance for People Seeking Asylum (CAPSA) and Director, Jesuit Refugee Service, Australia (recently returned from Port Moresby), said, “I have just returned from Port Moresby as part of a delegation of Catholic leaders. What we saw and heard was harrowing.

The overall healthcare situation is dire. After seven years of limbo in PNG, all of the men are suffering in one way or another. Some have lost hope, others cling to the prospect of rebuilding their lives elsewhere. Many people literally live on pain-killers, anti-depressants and sedatives.”

Carolina also condemned the conditions of the Bomana detention centre where 47 asylum seekers have been incommunicado for 88 days, "We were told that conditions in Bomana prison are destroying lives, that then men there do not have access to adequate healthcare, have lost significant weight, have no access to visitors or legal advice, and cannot speak to family members.

The men’s resilience and remarkable spirit is the only shining light."

“The politicking with people lives has to stop,” said Ian Rintoul, “The Coalition are literally playing with people’s lives. No-one wants a politician standing between them and the medical help they need. This goes double when Coalition politicians are more concerned to save face than save lives.”

The Sydney rally will also celebrate the lives of two tragic victims of the government’s anti-refugee policies, 32 year-old Manus Afghan refugee, Sayed Mirwais Rohani who suicided in Brisbane on 15 October, and 33 year-old Bangladeshi asylum seeker, Mohammad Mohsin, asylum seeker who hanged himself at a mosque in Lakemba, 20 October.


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