Asylum seeker advocates have brought a 51,000-strong petition to Parliament House to try to convince senators not to scrap medical evacuation laws.
They’ve warned Australia’s offshore immigration centres will again become “living graveyards” if the federal government succeeds in reversing the medevac legislation.
The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre is pleading with independent senator Jacqui Lambie to use her casting vote to keep it in place.
The Morrison government hopes to win her support to repeal the law, passed against its wishes in February, that makes it easier to bring refugees to Australia for medical treatment.
ASRC head Kon Karapanagiotidis says that contrary to the scary picture the government painted when the law passed, there haven’t been hordes of people coming to Australia overnight, the asylum boats haven’t restarted and there hasn’t been a single national security incident.
“What we have seen through medevac have been men who had kidney stones so serious that they would have actually died if not transferred have been saved,” he said on Tuesday.
“A man who would have lost a limb after being violently attacked in Manus Island had that limb saved.
“We’ve had some people very mentally unwell whose lives were saved as a consequence.”
“And what has been most critical is that it’s been done with order [or in an orderly way].”
Thank you again to everyone of the 51,000 people who signed the petition by the whole refugee sector to #SaveMedevac. It was great as the @ASRC1 to be part of this social moment to deliver this to Parliament. pic.twitter.com/MMkyWwZezx
— Kon Karapanagiotidis (@Kon__K) November 26, 2019
He’s appealing to Senator Lambie’s compassion on the issue.
The petition was presented to a cross-party group made up of Labor, the Greens and independent MP Andrew Wilkie who said offshore detention without medical care was “murder”.
“The blood of many asylum seekers are on the hands of many politicians,” he said.
Labor immigration spokesperson Kristina Keneally said the government was portraying itself as powerless to repeal medevac decisions.
“Nothing is further from the truth,” she said.
Earlier, Liberal senator Amanda Stoker said the medevac laws were weakening Australia’s border security.
“(It’s) nothing more than an attempt to dismantle offshore processing by the activists who feel so strongly about this issue,” she said.
As of last Thursday, government figures show 169 people have been brought to Australia from offshore centres under the medevac law.
Analysis by the ASRC finds 86 per cent of these transfers were approved by Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton without reference to an independent medical panel.
Mr Karapanagiotidis said the nation was now at a crossroads.
He visited the Manus Island immigration centre two years ago.
“What we saw was a medical catastrophe, like a living graveyard,” he said.
“Why would we go back to what we had before?”
Senator Lambie met with Mr Dutton and Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday to discuss amendments that could ease her concerns about dismantling the medevac regime.
She’s indicated she wants to land a deal that amends the system, without giving the government a full repeal.
Medical groups continue to back the laws.