The decision of the Nauruan Government to block the transfer of a critically ill woman to Australia is “extremely concerning”, George Newhouse has told the ABC.
Court orders stipulated that the refugee should be brought to Australia for urgent treatment for depression and trauma-related conditions.
“You have a woman with serious mental illness, a court has ordered her to be brought to Australia for medical care because there isn’t adequate care for that person in Nauru, and the Nauruan government has stepped in and blocked that medical evacuation,” Newhouse said.
“It’s very disturbing that unqualified bureaucrats and government officials are making life or death decisions.”
The National Justice Project has brought many children to Australia from Nauru, but Newhouse emphasised that this was usually in slightly different circumstances.
“It wasn’t the Nauruans that are blocking medical treatment for some of the young children that we’ve brought to Australia for care,” he said. “It’s been the Australian government.”
“We’ve had a similar problem where bureaucrats and officials are actually overruling the recommendations of doctors that people get care.”
The situation surrounding the transfer of ill refugees and asylum seekers to Australia stands in stark contrast to the au pair scandal that has surrounded Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton this month.
“On the one hand… doctors are pleading for the lives of children to come to Australia, and the government officials are refusing them access to healthcare,” Newhouse said. “And on the other hand you see people are writing letters or emails, contacting the Minister for help with an au pair.”
“It’s a very stark contrast and it shows a marked difference in compassion and in their approach.”
Newhouse also drew attention to the atmosphere of hopelessness on Nauru at the moment.
“Many people have been moved to the United States, and those people that are left are feeling hopelessness,” he said. “And that hopelessness is affecting their mental health.”
“There’s at least 109 children on Nauru who’ve been there for five years. They need to be moved as quickly as possible for their own health and welfare.”