MSF: MedEvac still a desperate measure for a desperately real situation

05 Jul 2019

Sydney, 5 July 2019: Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) takes note of the referral of the ‘MedEvac Bill’ repeal amendments to a Senate inquiry by the Senate Legal and Constitutional Legislative Committee until October 2019.


The regional processing centre on Nauru. © MSF

However, MSF expects this inquiry to confirm once again the message of our December 2018 report Indefinite Despair. We maintain that six years of indefinite offshore processing have had a dreadful impact on the health of asylum seekers and refugees on both Nauru and Manus Island; and continue advocating for their immediate and permanent evacuation.

“Our politicians should know, and the public needs to know, that the health crisis on Manus and Nauru is real. The mental and physical suffering of the human beings trapped by Australian policy is real. The need to urgently act to stop this unnecessary suffering is real.”

Paul McPhun
MSF Australia Executive Director

Paul McPhun continued: “Our experience during 11 months working on Nauru showed that people there were experiencing life-threatening mental health needs. We found that 60 per cent of refugees and asylum seekers we treated there had suicidal thoughts. We saw that there was insufficient independent medical care available on the island to cope with the levels of need.

“We know that these mental health and humanitarian needs persist, and that the situation of refugees and asylum seekers contained on Manus Island may be similar. We therefore urge all parties involved to allow all forms of independent medical care, assessment and/or referral to continue.

“Current legislation simply allows doctors to decide whether sick people can be transferred to Australia for treatment. That shouldn’t even be in doubt. The MedEvac Bill is still a desperate measure for a desperate situation, but it may help prevent desperate people self-harming.

“Ultimately, all asylum seekers and refugees on Nauru and Manus Island must be taken to a safe place where they can have fast access to permanent resettlement, alongside their families, and begin rebuilding their lives.”