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“Australia must now act”: UNHCR calls for Australia to move refugees

The UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has renewed calls for the Australian government to immediately move asylum seekers and refugees to Australia to prevent further tragedy

The UN Refugee Agency has called for Australia to immediately evacuate refugees and asylum seekers from Papua New Guinea and Nauru.

UNHCR spokesperson, Catherine Stubberfield, said the people on the islands should be moved to Australia during a briefing in Geneva. This follows concerns of a “recent worsening of conditions” and the forced evacuation of Medecins Sans Frontieres.

“Australia remains responsible under international law for those who have sought its protection and whom it has forcibly transferred to so-called ‘offshore processing’ facilities,” Stubberfield said.

“In the context of deteriorating health and reduced medical care, Australia must now act to prevent further tragedy and loss of life.”

Stubberfield further pointed out there had been a significant increase of medical evacuations for refugees from Nauru to Australia. She said that there were more in September this year “than in the preceding two years combined”.

She also added there had been several instances of self-harm or attempted suicide in Papua New Guinea in just the past month.

“UNHCR has repeatedly urged that Australia should accept New Zealand’s welcome and ongoing offer,” Stubberfield said.

“In the absence of any alternatives, UNHCR appeals for all refugees and asylum seekers to be immediately brought from Papua New Guinea and Nauru to Australia.”’

Opposition leader, Bill Shorten, told The Guardian that Labor remained resolved to stop new boat arrivals but was consulting with the medical community about Nauru.

The UNHCR’s call for immediate evacuation echoes strong statements made this week by Medecins Sans Frontieres after NGO staff were forced to end their mental health work on Nauru.

“Whilst in my professional opinion there is no therapeutic solution for these patients as long as they are trapped on the island, I fear the withdrawal of MSF’s….healthcare will claim lives,” MSF Psychiatrist, Dr Beth O’Conner, said.

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