UN urges Aus­tralia to evac­u­ate off­shore refugees over health cri­sis

Iran Daily - - Society -

The United Na­tions (UN) asked Aus­tralia to ur­gently evac­u­ate de­tainees from the Pa­cific is­lands of Nauru and Pa­pua-new Guinea, say­ing it bears re­spon­si­bil­ity for their de­te­ri­o­rat­ing health con­di­tions.

Wors­en­ing men­tal health has left some of the chil­dren among the refugees in a ‘semi-co­matose state’, un­able to eat, drink or talk, hu­man­i­tar­ian group Médecins Sans Fron­tières (MSF), which was ejected from Nauru, has said, ac­cord­ing to Reuters.

The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said on Fri­day that more than 1,400 peo­ple are still be­ing held on both is­lands, which have hosted Aus­tralia-bound mi­grants and asy­lum-seek­ers since 2013.

The refugees were trans­ferred to the is­lands af­ter be­ing in­ter­cepted try­ing to reach Aus­tralia by boat, a pol­icy widely crit­i­cized by the UN and other rights groups.

“This pol­icy has failed on a num­ber of mea­sures,” the UNHCR spokes­woman, Cather­ine Stub­ber­field, said in a state­ment.

“It’s failed to pro­tect refugees, it’s failed to pro­vide even for their most basic needs.”

Of the 12 peo­ple who have died since Aus­tralia be­gan de­tain­ing mi­grants and refugees off­shore, half had been con­firmed or sus­pected sui­cides, the agency said.

“Ul­ti­mately, re­spon­si­bil­ity lies with Aus­tralia for those who have sought its pro­tec­tion,” Stub­ber­field said in the state­ment on the agency’s web­site.

“This is a sys­tem de­signed, fi­nanced, man­aged by Aus­tralia, and it’s Aus­tralia which must be ac­count­able for the full gamut of those con­se­quences.”

Aus­tralia’s De­part­ment of Home Af­fairs did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to a re­quest from Reuters to seek com­ment.

In a state­ment to The Guardian news­pa­per, it said it treated the health of refugees ‘se­ri­ously’.

It added, “All trans­fer­ees on Nauru are free to move around the is­land; they are not in de­ten­tion.”

A con­tracted provider of­fered ser­vices such as gen­eral prac­ti­tion­ers, nurs­ing and men­tal health­care clin­ics through­out the week, in ad­di­tion to af­ter-hours staffing for emer­gen­cies, it said in the state­ment.

As many as 65 health pro­fes­sion­als, in­clud­ing 33 men­tal health pro­fes­sion­als, pro­vide ser­vices to trans­fer­ees on Nauru, it added.


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