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Experts Call For Transfer of Last Refugees in PNG to Australia

Media Release

Religious leaders and healthcare professionals present Open Letters calling for the immediate transfer to Australia of the remaining refugees in PNG.

More than 500 doctors, nurses and allied health professionals and more than 300 religious leaders and people of faith will call on the Australian Government to immediately transfer to Australia the approximately 64 refugees and people seeking asylum who are still trapped in Papua New Guinea: in two open letters.

On Tuesday 28th November, a delegation of religious leaders and healthcare professionals will travel to Parliament House to meet with MPs and deliver the two open letters.

Signatories to the letters include:

  • Bishop Mark Short (Anglican Diocese of Canberra and Goulburn)
  • Bishop Vincent Long (Catholic Diocese of Parramatta)
  • Rev Tim Costello (Executive Director of Micah Australia)
  • Imam Shadi Alsuleiman (President, Australian National Imams Council)
  • Rev Sharon Hollis (President Uniting Church in Australia, Assembly)
  • Professor Clare Nourse AM
  • Professor David Isaacs
  • Professor Lyn Gilbert AO
  • Professor Roy Robins-Browne AO

Representing the religious leaders who signed the open letter, Bishop Mark Short says:

“As people of faith, and as leaders of our congregations, we are deeply concerned about the refugees and people seeking asylum currently trapped in Papua New Guinea. Continuing to hold them in PNG is unjust and denies them basic human rights. We call on the Australian Government to bring to Australia the refugees and people seeking asylum still held in Papua New Guinea.”

Mainul Haque OAM (Former President, Canberra Muslim Community and Gungahlin Mosque) said:

“We are committed to a compassionate society based on justice, hope and fairness. This is a call for the just and compassionate treatment of people who are awaiting their resettlement processes.”

Representing healthcare professionals who signed the open letter, Professor David Isaacs said:

“People have been held in PNG for more than 10 years now, causing enormous harm to their physical and mental health and they have been denied adequate health care. Australia is actively harming these people and it is time to bring this to an end. They should be brought here immediately so that they can receive the medical care that they need while they await a resettlement solution.”

Dr Nilanthy Vigneswaran (Infectious Diseases Fellow) said:

“This open letter speaks to the ever growing calls within Australia’s healthcare community to end the suffering and dehumanisation of refugees in PNG, and immediately provide them with urgent and long awaited medical care.

“Fourteen people have died in Australia’s offshore detention in the last 10 years. Coronial inquests have identified that unacceptable delays in transferring people to tertiary centres for urgent medical care directly contributed to these preventable deaths. We do not view these incidents as tragic isolated events, rather they represent a systemic failure.

The medical care available to people held offshore is far below the standard of that accessed by the general Australian public.”

Dr Kevin Sweeney added:

“Having more than 800 signatories to these open letters is evidence of the ongoing, widespread concern across the community for those ‘left behind’ in PNG, many of whom have no pathway to safe resettlement.

“It is extraordinary that these refugees and people seeking asylum are still trapped in PNG after more than 10 years; unable to see their families, unable to build a new life for themselves. The endless waiting and hopelessness has taken a huge toll on their mental health.”

Sr Jane Keogh commented: “They live in difficult circumstances where they are not safe – they are regularly targeted and attacked by street gangs. Basic supports are now being withdrawn as Australia has not provided any funding for more than 12 months. There are credible reports that funds that Australia has previously provided have been siphoned off, raising serious concerns about corruption. Off-shore detention in PNG has been a disaster and needs to be brought to an end. The Australian Government needs to transfer them back to Australia now.”


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  1. New England Cocky

    Time to stop this inhumane off-shore processing that was started by the LABOR party and made considerably worse by the LIARBRAL$.

    It is time to bring all the legal refugees to on-shore Australia, provide accommodation, necessary health checks & treatment, necessary language education, work permits and regular social support to re-commence their lives contributing to the Australian economy rather than being a continual expense drain of Australia currency into the pockets of foreign owned multinational jail corporations.

  2. Clakka

    Fully agree NEC.

    The nation state siege mentality remains as an abuse of a system of 20th century treaties to help reduce war and reduce impacts upon ordinary folk going about their day-to-day lives, and also to accommodate migration if so desired. It was added to later by further treaties that acknowledged that geographical / environmental / political matters in nation states could have them and act on biases that gave rise to the need for individuals or sectors of the populace to quickly relocate as refugees, for their very survival.

    The factors behind these treaties have been going on since the year dot. They are factors from our blood-soaked history that caused the fleeing of those attacked, ruined the environment, ecologies and economies, all brought on via militarized conquest and greed, and gave rise to politics whether it be via secular or sectarian means.

    Yet, despite these treaties, they are most often ignored or circumvented, by venal self-interested politicians, proselytizers and unaccountable corporations. Despite that humanity progressively understood the world and developed its ingenuity and potential via migration, those same fearful and despotic politicians, proselytizers and unaccountable corporations seek to capture, contain and own, giving rise to restraint of the development of human ingenuity and potential, all for their own narrow-minded greedy purposes, and setting the scene for interminable failure.

    It is no small irony that the Constitutions of most nation states remain imbued with such mindset stupidities, and as such proscribe the development of humanity as a whole. That the lessons of the great war and WWII (amongst others) only brought about temporary measures for hope, these were soon crushed by the utterly anti-science, anti-intellectual, divisive despotic mores of the likes of Thatcher and Reagan which have non-stop progressed to the near collapse of human systems today.

    Climate change issues, have now become the battle ground. The same old offenders are the same old antagonists against humanity. Their attempts to capture, contain and own are as usual an utterly fraught stupidity. As they hurtle us towards failure, just how will they cope with the tens of millions fleeing the boil?

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