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Australia restricts medical evacuations of refugees from Pacific detention centers

Australia restricts medical evacuations of refugees from Pacific detention centers

Australia on Wednesday removed the right of doctors to order sick asylum seekers to be evacuated from two remote Pacific detention centers for medical treatment. Opponents say this risks the lives of refugees.

Under Australia’s controversial immigration policy, asylum seekers intercepted at sea are sent to camps in Papua New Guinea and Nauru. They can never settle in Australia, even if they are found to be refugees.

In February, independent lawmakers and the opposition joined forces to give doctors the right to order sick asylum seekers to be sent to Australia if they required medical care. After securing re-election in May, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his government would seek to repeal the legislation. After weeks of negotiations, the repeal legislation passed Australia’s Senate by 37 votes to 35.

Around 500 people remain on the two island centers, many suffering mental health issues after more than six years in detention, Reuters reported, citing aid organizations.