Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Australia's Shame

Much has been said about the lack of humanity in the American treatment of migrant children but at the other end of the spectrum Australia is also demonstrating a lack of compassion, too.

The Australian Medical Association and the Royal Australasian College of Physicians have both told the government that a dying Afghan refugee currently held in offshore processing on Nauru , who has lung cancer, should be moved to Australia to “be allowed dignity and respect at the end of his life”.

An open letter signed by more than 2,000 doctors calls for his transfer, explaining “His only chance of a good death is to come to Australia so that he can have both community and medical expertise. Our international reputation depends on it. Our humanity demands it.” 

Sources on Nauru and doctors familiar with his case say the palliative care he is receiving inside the Australian-run regional processing centre is “totally inadequate”. His prognosis is “dire” and he has only weeks or months to live.

The Australian Border Force has told Ali he can go to Taiwan to die – an option he has rejected because he does not know anybody there, is concerned there would be no translator from his language, Hazaraghi, and that there would be no one to perform the Shia Muslim rituals and ceremonies on his body when he died. The ABF has also offered to return him to Afghanistan, the country he fled after facing threats on his life. Ali is a member of the persecuted Hazara minority and has been formally recognised as a refugee – he faces a well-founded fear of persecution in Afghanistan and cannot be forcibly returned there. Australia is legally obliged to protect him.

High-profile or politically-sensitive medical cases are decided not by the ABF but by executive-level officials of the Department of Home Affairs: in some cases as high as the secretary of the department or the minister for home affairs.

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