Churches call on the Senate to protect 'Medevac' legislation

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Australian church leaders have called on the Senate to keep the current ‘Medevac’ legislation in place

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Australian church leaders have called on the Senate to keep the current ‘Medevac’ legislation in place.

A briefing paper recently released by the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce and the National Council of Churches in Australia aims to address the misinformation and confusion being peddled by sections of the media and some politicians about the Australian Government’s official processes for refugees and people seeking asylum in Australia and those in offshore detention.

The Churches’ paper puts the Medevac legislation in the context of a timeline of complex and confusing government policy changes since 2012.

Chair of the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce (ACRT) Rob Floyd said that the Medevac legislation needs to be upheld by the Senate to save the lives of people who have become mentally and physically unwell in our offshore detention centres.

“The Government policy changes and long-term detention of refugees and people seeking asylum have caused the very critical and unmet medical and health needs that the Medevac legislation is addressing,” Mr Floyd said.

“We welcome the fact that the medical evacuation program is saving lives and reducing misery and we thank the members of Parliament who continue to support this important humanitarian initiative of the last Parliament.

“Refugees and people seeking asylum have a human face.”

President of the National Council of Churches in Australia Bishop Huggins said that we need to see beyond false information and listen to medical experts.

“The medical transfer program has saved lives and the ongoing use of misinformation is focusing on a small number of cases,” Bishop Huggins said.

“Mental health is the most significant issue. All people who have been medically evacuated from Manus and Nauru experience depression and anxiety and most, the effects of traumatic stress.

“It is the nature of detention to traumatise people.

“People with mental health issues are often not well enough to have their other health and medical needs treated.

“Their mental health needs to be addressed first.

“This has repeatedly been stated by the Australian Medical Association.”

Speaking on behalf of the ACRT, Mr Floyd said that the facts are being intentionally distorted in some public discussions about the legislation.

“The media and political commentary on the medical transfers under the Medevac legislation is an example of how facts have deliberately gone missing and are being twisted in reporting,” he said.

The briefing paper also looks at the situation and options for refugees stuck in limbo on Temporary Protection Visas and Safe Haven Enterprise Visas, as well as those refused asylum under the government’s processes.

Many are being supported with food, clothing, accommodation, education and jobs by church congregations and church care agencies, together with other community groups across Australia.

Read the full ACRT Medevac Briefing Paper online.

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