Refugee Advocates Rubbish Dutton's Claim That We Can't Risk "A Single Act Of Compassion"
Dutton's claim comes amid calls to bring a 63-year-old refugee dying of terminal lung cancer to Australia.
Peter Dutton, facing calls to bring a refugee dying of terminal lung cancer to Australia, has claimed that he cannot risk "a single act of compassion" without people smugglers starting things up again with renewed force.
But refugee advocates claim this is simply untrue, saying it's simply "an excuse for a thousand acts of abuse."
Speaking to the Weekend Australian, the Home Affair minister claimed there was "excited chatter among people-smuggling advocates", and that Australia is in a "danger phase" of boat arrivals.
“It’s essential that people realise that the hard-won success of the last few years could be undone overnight by a single act of compassion in bringing 20 people from Manus to Australia," he said.
“The boats are there, we are scuttling boats, we are returning people and we are turning around boats where it is safe to do so. The boats haven’t gone away and if there is a success defined by an arrival of a boat in Australia then the word will spread like wildfire.”
But Ian Rintoul of the Refugee Action Coalition says this is the same line Dutton "trots out when it suits his political argument".
"Dutton's comment is really an excuse for continued abuse and mistreatment," Rintoul told ten daily.
"That's what he's trying to divert attention away from . The fact that it's systematic mistreatment and abuse on Manus Island and Nauru. He doesn't want to face up to that. The argument about one act of compassion is really an excuse for a thousand acts of abuse."
Dutton's comments come after more than 2,000 doctors signed a letter begging for a 63-year-old refugee, known only as Ali, to be allowed to come from Nauru to Australia for palliative care.
They also come just weeks after the tragic suicide of Iranian refugee Fariborz Karami, 26, who killed himself after five years of being detained on Nauru with deteriorating mental health. He is the twelfth person to die in Australia's offshore detention.
Refugee advocates say there is a severe lack of medical facilities on Nauru, with nothing in the way of palliative care.
Rintoul told ten daily that Ali had spent months visiting multiple hospitals trying to figure out what was wrong with him, before being given the diagnosis of terminal lung cancer earlier this year.
"It's not just the unwillingness of Peter Dutton to bring Ali to Australia that indicates the complete indecency of Dutton and the offshore detention policy, but it also reveals the systematic medical neglect," he said. "There is a serious lack of medical facilities on Nauru that the government has never attempted to address. He's simply tried to avoid that issue by leaving people to die."
Ali has mere months left to live, according to members of the Afghan Hazara refugee community on Nauru.
"We have tried many times to help him for more treatment, to send him to Australia," one community member told The Guardian. "Unfortunately, nothing has happened."
His illness has left him requiring round-the-clock care. Although he has a wife and child back in Afghanistan, he has been recognised as a refugee and has a well-founded fear of persecution. He has a cannot legally return to his homeland.
The Department of Home Affairs staff have previously told Ali he should abandon his protection claim and return to Afghanistan, while the Australian Border Force considered sending him to Taiwan (although this option has been rejected).
Right now, he's being held in the RPC1 detention facility, where Rintoul says he cannot even be put in a wheelchair and taken outside in the sun.
"[Australia] may not be able to resettle him, they may be unwilling to resettle him, but they have an obligation to someone they put on Nauru, who is found to be a refugee," he said.
"They should at least enable him to die with some dignity and surrounded with some support from his community."