NSW CCL signs #BackTheBill: Medical treatment should not be a political question

The New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties (CCL) has signed an open letter urging Members of Parliament to support the Home Affairs Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) Bill 2018. This Bill includes amendments advanced by MP Kerryn Phelps to provide for medical evacuations from Manus and Nauru.

CCL President Pauline Wright said “In the last five years, we have seen 12 deaths on Manus and Nauru. There are human beings who have died because Australian officials have refused to permit urgently needed medical transfers until it was too late. Medical treatment should be a medical question, not a political one. Doctors should be able to determine how to treat their patients, and what kind of care is needed.”

“There have been numerous cases where asylum seekers have had to take the government to court just to get medical treatment. In one case, a woman was raped on Nauru, and sought a termination to deal with the resulting pregnancy. Due to her complex medical needs, she needed to be transferred to Australia. The government refused. Her lawyers had to litigate the issue in Federal Court to access a safe termination. This episode demonstrated the lack of humanity in the current system. It should not take legal action to get basic medical care for the people Australia has forced onto Manus and Nauru,” said Wright.

Angela Catallo, co-convenor of the CCL Asylum Seekers and Refugees Action Group, said “Hamid Kehazei entered Manus in 2013 as a fit and healthy refugee from Iran. When he got a cut on his leg, Australian officials refused repeated requests that he be transferred to Australia for medical treatment. The Australian government continued to ignore and reject these requests until he was in septic shock, had repeated cardiac arrests, and showed early signs of the development of brain death.”

“The coroner responded to Hamid’s tragic and avoidable death by recommending that doctors should determine whether asylum seekers and refugees should be transferred to Australia for healthcare, not Australian Border Force officials and Department of Home Affairs Bureaucrats. It should not be up to medically untrained officials to determine whether a person deserves medical treatment. Everyone deserves medical treatment,” said Catallo.

Contacts in relation to this statement.

Pauline Wright



0418 292 656


Angela Catallo

Convenor of Asylum Seekers and Refugees Action Group




Martin Bibby

Convenor of Asylum Seekers and Refugees Action Group