Weekly media wrap - 9 December 2018

The Australian Labor Party agreed to support independent MP Kerryn Phelps’ bill for emergency medical transfers from offshore detention, provided that changes be made to keep a ministerial power to refuse transfers. The minister would also be required to table a statement in parliament if they refuse to transfer someone, and an independent health advice panel would be established.

With support from Labor and independents, the bill was passed through the Senate late on the last day of the final Parliamentary sitting week for 2018, and so was not passed by the House of Representatives. The law could still be passed in February when the House of Representatives resumes. Prime Minister Scott Morrison criticised Labor’s support for the bill and for ‘destroy(ing) the building blocks of border protection that keep Australians safe’.

Protesters rallied outside Parliament House and offices of MPs in support of the bill. Some of Australia’s biggest film and television stars wore blue ribbons to the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Awards, to call for the government to bring asylum seeker children detained on Nauru to Australia.

A new report was published by Médecins Sans Frontières this week, highlighting new data showing the current mental health crisis on Nauru. The report rated the severity of mental illness using the Global Assessment of Functioning scale, revealing that both its Nauruan and refugee patients showed similar levels of mental illness far worse than other MSF projects around the world.

Hakeem Al-Araibi, a Bahraini refugee, has spent more than ten days in Thai detention, and has been officially arrested for a court to rule on his extradition to Bahrain. Al-Araibi is not expected to be immediately extradited, pending further hearings. Al-Araibi is a permanent resident of Australia after being granted refugee status in 2017.

A full bench of the federal court granted an extension to an Iraqi asylum seeker to lodge a notice of appeal,  overturning a decision by circuit court judge Sandy Street. In May 2018, Street dismissed the Iraqi man’s appeal against a negative refugee assessment, which had been upheld by the Immigration Assessment Authority. He upheld the original decision and gave his reasons in court orally but failed to publish his reasons until after the time limit for the man to appeal had lapsed. The federal court said the cause of the Iraqi man’s failure to file the appeal was ‘wholly outside the responsibility of the appellant’.