Australian asylum seekers to be deported have cancer, terminal illnesses
Send a link to a friend
[February 08, 2016]
By Matt Siegel
SYDNEY (Reuters) - Some of the 267 asylum
seekers Australia wants to deport to an offshore immigration center
following a court ruling are suffering from cancer and other terminal
illnesses, a senior government official said on Monday.
Australia's High Court last week upheld the government's right to
deport detained asylum seekers to the tiny South Pacific island of
Nauru, about 3,000 km (1,800 miles) northeast of Australia.
The decision provoked criticism from the United Nations and sparked
protest, with church leaders offering asylum seekers sanctuary.
The center has been widely criticized for harsh conditions and
reports of systemic child abuse and sexual assault.
Some deportations could begin within days, but others would have to
be dealt with in a staged fashion, because of the illnesses, said
Michael Pezzullo, secretary of the department of immigration and
"In some cases we're talking about cancer, we're talking about all
sorts of long-run illnesses," he told a parliamentary hearing.
"Regrettably in some cases, for reasons to do with very long-term,
and indeed potentially terminal illnesses, some folks, I suspect,
will be here for quite a while."
The refugees, including 37 babies, had been brought to Australia
from Nauru for medical treatment.
Under Australia's controversial immigration policy, asylum seekers
trying to reach the country by boat are intercepted and sent to
camps on Nauru or on Manus island in Papua New Guinea. They can
never be resettled in Australia.
Both the ruling conservative Liberal Party of Prime Minister Malcolm
Turnbull and center-left Labor Party support the policy, which was
introduced by former Labor Prime Minister Kevin Ruddy.
[to top of second column]
Both sides argue that the policy of deterrence is necessary to stop
asylum seekers dying at sea while attempting to make the sea
crossing on often rickety boats used by people smugglers.
The numbers trying to reach Australia are small in comparison with
the floods of asylum seekers in Europe, the issue is a perennial
hot-button political issue both at home and abroad.
On Monday Australia announced the appointment of veteran politician
Philip Ruddock as its first special envoy for human rights.
"Australia has a strong record of promoting and protecting human
rights, at home and around the world," Foreign Minister Julie Bishop
said in a statement.
"Mr Ruddock will be reflecting the government's commitment to
further strengthening Australia's contribution to advancing human
(Reporting by Matt Siegel; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)
[© 2016 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2016 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.