Nauru Hits Back At Char­ity As UN Calls For Refugee Evac­u­a­tion

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The UN refugee agency has joined med­i­cal char­i­ties in urg­ing the Aus­tralian govern­ment to re­move all refugees and asy­lum seek­ers from Nauru and Manus Is­land, say­ing the health of more than 1400 peo­ple has se­ri­ously de­te­ri­o­rated.

The Nauru govern­ment last week forced the med­i­cal char­ity Médicins Sans Fron­tières off the is­land, abruptly end­ing its free med­i­cal care for refugees and lo­cals.

Last Thurs­day, the char­ity de­tailed a grow­ing men­tal health cri­sis among asy­lum seek­ers and refugees it says are grow­ing in­creas­ingly hope­less af­ter more than five years in limbo.

In a speech in Geneva on Fri­day, the UNHCR’s Aus­tralia spokesper­son, Cather­ine Stub­ber­field, echoed those con­cerns, say­ing the health of those still in Nauru or Pa­pua New Guinea’s Manus Is­land was de­clin­ing rapidly. “Dur­ing Septem­ber 2018, more refugees and asy­lum seek­ers have been med­i­cally evac­u­ated from Nauru to Aus­tralia than in the pre­ced­ing two years com­bined,” said Ms Stub­ber­field, adding that most of those evac­u­a­tions were only done af­ter in­ter­ven­tion by Aus­tralian courts.

“This re­flects both the long­stand­ing poor health­care sit­u­a­tion un­der off­shore pro­cess­ing, and a re­cent wors­en­ing of con­di­tions.” Ms Stub­ber­field said the asy­lum seek­ers and refugees must be moved im­me­di­ately to Aus­tralia where they can get med­i­cal care.

“Aus­tralia re­mains re­spon­si­ble un­der in­ter­na­tional law for those who sought its pro­tec­tion and whom it has forcibly trans­ferred to so-called off­shore pro­cess­ing fa­cil­i­ties,” she said.

“In the con­text of de­te­ri­o­rat­ing health and re­duced med­i­cal care, Aus­tralia must act now to pre­vent fur­ther tragedy and loss of life.”

A guise for ac­tivism

Mean­while, the Nauru govern­ment ac­cused Médicins Sans Fron­tières of con­spir­ing against it, us­ing its health­care ser­vices as a guise for po­lit­i­cal ac­tivism.

In a lengthy state­ment, the govern­ment said the fa­cil­i­ties, care and wel­fare it pro­vided was bet­ter than other refugees and asy­lum seek­ers re­ceived across the globe. It said MSF mem­bers were on the is­land as po­lit­i­cal ac­tivists for refugees.

“It is not un­usual for an or­gan­i­sa­tion such as MSF to gain po­lit­i­cal mileage from our de­ci­sion to cease the [mem­o­ran­dum of un­der­stand­ing]. They must re­alise that no longer will our coun­try ac­cept the con­cocted lies told about us purely to ad­vance po­lit­i­cal agen­das,” the state­ment read.

“In­stead of work­ing with us, they con­spired against us,” it said. “They must re­alise that no longer will our coun­try ac­cept the con­cocted lies told about us purely to ad­vance po­lit­i­cal agen­das.”

The Ni­bok refugee set­tle­ment, Nauru.

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