Jesuit Social Services believes that the current measures prescribed by the Home Affairs Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) Bill 2018 — commonly referred to as the Medevac Law — are reasonable and necessary. Moves to repeal this legislation, as prescribed by the Migration Amendment (Repairing Medical Transfers) Bill 2019, are cause for considerable concern.

The Medevac Law helps to ensure that people seeking asylum and refugees currently held offshore by the Australian Government in PNG and Nauru can be transferred to Australia for medical treatment, on the advice of at least two doctors. The measures put medical decisions in the hands of medical professionals, not government officials. At the same time, the Minister retains discretion to refuse a transfer if it would harm Australia’s security or pose a serious risk to the community.

Any suggestion that these measures will encourage boat arrivals or undermine Australia’s borders are not based in fact. The Medevac Law essentially provides that a small number of seriously ill people are able to access the medical treatment in Australia that they desperately need. It is no broader than that. The measures are a small step toward respecting the fundamental human dignity of people held offshore and upholding their right to adequate healthcare.

Repealing the Medevac Law serves no discernable purpose. Frankly, it would be cruel. When we treat people poorly, when we violate people’s rights, it diminishes us all. We can and must do better. Jesuit Social Services stands in solidarity with all those individuals and organisations across Australia striving for a compassionate and humane response to all people seeking asylum.

Our submission to the inquiry can be viewed here.