Australia is denying urgent medical access for refugees it keeps on several islands off the continent because officials fear the refugees would have access to legal assistance once they are within the Australian jurisdiction, the medical group Doctors 4 Refugees said Wednesday.
"There's a push to keep them away from Australia," said Barri Phatarfod, cofounder of the medical alliance, according to a report by Al Jazeera report. "The fear is that in Australia they may have access to legal assistance and the courts."
He added that the Australian government's practice comes despite the lack of medical equipment and expertise in the Islands where the refugees are being kept.
Doctors 4 Refugees reviews medical cases at the request of refugees detained in offshore prisons on Nauru, Manus, and Christmas Island.
The allegation comes few days after Australia was slammed by the United Nations over its human rights record and its treatment of the refugees. More than 100 countries spoke Monday during a United Nations periodic review of Australia's human rights record, with many condemning the country for its mandatory detention regime, which puts asylum seekers behind bars for years on end in offshore processing facilities.
Documents shown to Al Jazeera by Melbourne-based Human Rights Law Centre supported the claim made by Doctors 4 Refugees.
In an email referring to an ongoing legal case before the High Court that challenges the legality of offshore detentions, an official at the Department of Immigration stated: "This is likely to cause problems with being able to return transitory persons, as more and more plaintiffs join the litigation. It is therefore important to return as many transitory persons as well [sic] can, as soon as possible."
The legal case was brought forward by more than 200 refugees who were brought to Australia for medical treatment. They are currently able to stay in Australia awaiting the judgment in the High Court case. The government could send them back to the Islands if the court rules in favor of the offshore detentions.
The government thinks that those refugees are scamming the government through medical issues in a bid to stay in the country. Peter Dutton, the minister for immigration, said asylum seekers are running a "racket.”
"The racket that's been going on here is that people at the margins come to Australia from Nauru. The government's then injuncted," he told ABC radio last month. "We can't send them back to Nauru and there are more than 200 people in that category."