Close sites icon close
Search form

Search for the country site.

Country profile

Country website

UNHCR statement on Australia's repeal of Medevac legislation

Press releases

UNHCR statement on Australia's repeal of Medevac legislation

5 December 2019
Papua New Guinea. UNHCR supports asylum-seekers' struggle for fair treatment
The Regional Processing Centre on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea, November 2014.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is disappointed by the repeal of the Medevac legislation in the Australian Parliament on Wednesday, which may negatively impact vital care for asylum seekers in offshore processing facilities.

Since its commencement earlier this year, the medevac mechanism had proven to be a timely, effective and often life-saving programme for seriously ill asylum seekers at facilities at Manus Island in Papua New Guinea and Nauru.

More than 3,000 refugees and asylum seekers have been forcibly transferred by Australia to the offshore processing facilities since 2013.

After more than six years of uncertainty regarding solutions, UNHCR is extremely concerned that the health situation of asylum seekers and refugees will continue to deteriorate.

In the absence of the now repealed Medevac mechanisms, UNHCR urges the Government of Australia to continue utilising pre-existing legislative processes in a good faith effort to evacuate individuals in need of urgent medical treatment.

As Australia retains responsibility for people forcibly transferred under its offshore arrangements, UNHCR urges the Government of Australia to find appropriate solutions including taking up the longstanding offer by New Zealand to resettle refugees and to prevent further harm.