Australia Revokes Medical Evacuations for Offshore Detainees

Prime Minister Scott Morrison

Prime Minister Scott Morrison

Australia today removed the right of doctors to order sick asylum seekers be evacuated from two remote Pacific detention centres for medical treatment, a repeal that opponents said risks the lives of refugees.

"We've always understood that that type of loophole doesn't strengthen our borders, it only weakens them", said Morrison.

There are calls for the government to unveil the details of a "secret" deal made with Jacqui Lambie to repeal the controversial medevac laws.

"The condition that I put to the government is a sensible and reasonable proposition, that I have arrived at through extensive consultation", Ms Lambie said.

Now, the government is being accused of "disgraceful" conduct over an alleged "secret deal" with independent Tasmanian senator Jacqui Lambie, who said she can't speak about the situation due to national security concerns. I know that's frustrating to people.

About 650 refugees have been resettled in the United States, with a further 250 in Papua New Guinea and Nauru approved to go at a future date, Australian Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton told reporters in Canberra.

It has been speculated the government could have agreed to send refugees from offshore processing to New Zealand after a similar arrangement with the USA has ended.

In 2016, Australia agreed a deal with former US President Barack Obama to offer refuge to up to 1,250 asylum seekers.

"We will continue to use the arrangements that we have in place to be able to resettle people and that is the assurance that we have provided", he said. "My hand is on my heart and I can stand here and say that I would be putting at risk Australia's national security and national interest if I said anything else about this".

Labor spokeswoman on home affairs Kristina Keneally said the Australian public supported medevac, quoting a poll showing 62% in favour.

He then attacked the Labor party's record on border protection, saying they had sent women and children to Manus Island.

"Someone's lying here. Either Senator Lambie is lying or the government is lying".

"Asylum seekers and refugees who remain indefinitely contained on Nauru and PNG have been blocked again from accessing treatment for critical health conditions where adequate care is not available locally", said Paul McPhun, executive director of Médecins Sans Frontières Australia.

"A secret deal on such a critical piece of legislation is one of the most reprehensible things you can do as a member of parliament".

It reported that as of Monday, 466 asylum-seekers and refugees were held offshore - 208 in PNG and 258 on Nauru - of which 234 had applied for a medical transfer.

Morrison rejected those allegations, insisting Canberra has provided significant medical aid, while those unable to get necessary treatment can be sent to Australia if the minister for home affairs approves it.

The Morrison Liberal Government has repealed the Medevac legislation.