A medical staff wearing a facemask poses in an isolation ward at a newly inaugurated hospital by the Tamil Nadu state during a government-imposed nationwide lockdown as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus, in Chennai on March 27, 2020.

Australian Government must immediately vaccinate all 134 refugees still trapped on Papua New Guinea against Covid 19

Following ABC Radio National’s report concerning discrimination towards refugees who have tested positive to COVID-19 on Papua New Guinea, Amnesty International and Doctors for Refugees call on the Australian Government to immediately vaccinate all those being held and ensure they are not being discriminated against in any way.

According to the ABC report 14 detainees have tested positive to the virus, although this has yet to be confirmed. Some of those affected are reportedly being denied access to their hotel accommodation and restricted access to casework support. 

On March 17, Amnesty raised concerns about the situation on PNG and highlighted the lack of an adequate response to the growing Covid-19 crisis. The Australian Government has committed to providing just over 8,000 vaccines to Papua New Guinea’s frontline healthcare workers. The amount of personal protective equipment for health workers is inadequate, some hospitals are full or threatening to be closed to new admissions and misinformation within the community and online about the illness has been rife.

Australia and New Zealand need to urgently step up and provide more assistance.

After eight years trapped offshore, many of the detainees have serious medical conditions that place them in high-risk groups if they were to contract the virus. Additionally, many don’t feel safe seeking medical treatment at the Pacific International Hospital that is contracted by the Australian Government to provide medical services to refugees. 

Amnesty International Australia Refugee Adviser, Dr Graham Thom, said: “The Australian Government has a duty of care to those being detained under its cruel offshore detention policy for the past eight years. The detainees must have access to the COVID-19 vaccination program as a matter of urgency, and the authorities must ensure they are not being targeted or discriminated against in any way throughout this health crisis. We can’t allow the suffering to get worse or for anymore people to lose their lives because of Australia’s cruel offshore detention regime.” 

Dr Barri Phatarfod, president of Doctors4refugees, said: “These individuals are under Australia’s care. They need to be afforded the same care as others in the broader Australian community, as we’ve all been reassured. It is unconscionable that Australia would add to PNG’s current burden with our political agendas. This is a global health crisis where we are in a position to be part of the solution.“

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