Weekly media wrap - 25 February 2019

Home Affairs Secretary Michael Pezzullo revealed during Senate estimates that sick refugees and asylum seekers in offshore detention will be sent to Christmas Island, not the mainland, under new medevac laws. Shire of Christmas Island CEO David Price said the island is not equipped to deal with people sent there in poor health. Lawyers representing refugee advocacy organisations said they will launch legal challenges on medical transfers to the island. Meanwhile, the Nauruan government responded to the medevac laws by banning residents of Nauru from being granted medical transfers if the referral is based on online consultations. 

The federal government faced ongoing scrutiny for its decision to award contracts to provide security at the Manus Island detention centre, worth up to $423 million, to inexperienced contractor Paladin through a non-competitive tender process. The opposition asked the Auditor General to examine the contract, and the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, Peter O’Neil, said he would welcome an investigation into the affair. Paladin Director Ian Stewart defended the company’s record and disputed claims of corruption.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern reiterated her offer to resettle refugees from Nauru and Manus Island, including single men, during a visit by Prime Minister Scott Morrison to the country. Mr Morrison again rejected the offer. Opposition immigration spokesman Shayne Neumann said Labor will accept the offer if elected.

During Senate estimates, Australian Federal Police commissioner Andrew Colvin blamed a lack of information sharing from the Department of Home Affairs for the detention of refugee footballer Hakeem al-Araibi in Thailand.

Two sisters from Saudi Arabia who are trying to seek asylum in Australia said they have been stuck in Hong Kong for more than six months. The two women said they were prevented from boarding a connecting flight to Australia and were intercepted at the airport by diplomats from Saudi Arabia. The case is the second high-profile example this year of Saudi women seeking to escape their country.