UN calls on Aus­tralia to evac­u­ate off­shore refugees over health cri­sis

Gulf Times - - ASIA/AUSTRALASIA -

The United Na­tions has 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.

The United Na­tions refugee agency, UNHCR, said on Fri­day that more than 1,400 peo­ple are still be­ing held on both is­lands, which have hosted Aus­trali­abound mi­grants and asy­lum­seek­ers since 2013.

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

“This pol­icy has failed on a num­ber of mea­sures,” 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.”

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