Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison is campaigning to block a bill that would let sick asylum seekers in offshore centres get treatment in Australia.Mr Morrison said the bill would “take control from the government”, and “unleash a world of woe”.
Australia has sent asylum seekers who arrive by boat to detention centres on the Pacific islands of Nauru and Manus.
Its tough immigration policy has been repeatedly criticised.
“The problem with the bill is it takes control from the government and contracts it out to others who don’t have those same interests or responsibilities,” Mr Morrison said on Monday, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
The detention centre on Nauru has been dogged by allegations of widespread abuse and trauma among children and women.Australia’s parliament is expected to vote on the bill on Tuesday.
Under the proposed changes, doctors would have the power to transfer refugees on Nauru and Manus to Australia for treatment.
However, the immigration minister could ask an independent panel to review the medical assessment, and would have authority to overrule it.
Mr Morrison criticised the proposal, which was passed in the Senate last year with the support of the opposition Labor party, saying it would lead to deaths at sea.
“They have no idea of the consequences of what they are playing with. They will unleash a world of woe again. I’ve seen it before,” he said.
Defence Minister Christopher Pyne similarly voiced his opposition, saying the changes would lead migrants to come to Australia “one way or the other, saying they have a need to because of ill-health”.
Thousands of doctors have already signed a petition calling for the bill to be passed.
“[It] is a sensible solution which allows doctors to take care of their patients if they need urgent care not available on Nauru or Manus,” read the petition.
There have been several high-profile cases of asylum seekers falling ill over the past few years, including an Iranian on Manus Island who died in 2014.
Refugee’s emergency revives Australia row
He was flown unconscious to Brisbane, four days after first complaining of being ill, where he later died.