Healthcare denied: Medevac and the long wait for essential medical treatment in Australian Immigration Detention

This report examines the treatment and provision of health care for people brought to Australia into immigration detention as part of the Medevac scheme.

Under the Medevac scheme, refugee and asylum seekers were transferred to Australia from Nauru and Papua New Guinea to obtain medical treatment that was not available in those places.

The scheme required two independent doctors to determine that the temporary transfer was necessary. The Minister had 72 hours to decide whether to approve the transfer and could refuse it if he reasonably believed the transfer was not necessary or would threaten Australia’s security. The law was intended to streamline the transfer process and confer decision-making to specialist medical practitioners rather than relying upon the discretion of Department of Home Affairs (Department) officials.

The law operated for eight months – from 1 March 2019, until its repeal on 4 December 2019. Approximately 192 refugees and asylum seekers were transferred to Australia under the scheme. All of the people in the Medevac cohort were detained in onshore immigration detention facilities upon arrival, despite many living in the community offshore having been determined to be refugees.

Despite the scheme’s intentions, this report reveals that a concerning number of people in the Medevac cohort experienced serious problems in accessing necessary care once they arrived in Australia.

Share this article


Towards Truth is a partnership between PIAC and UNSW Indigenous Law Centre.
Former disability discrimination commissioner Graeme Innes settled a dispute over a 'humiliating and distressing' experience.
We secured a settlement for our client Yasir* who alleges he was forced to wear handcuffs to access healthcare.

Keep up to date with our work

Subscribe for updates including media coverage, event invitations and progress stories. You will hear from us about twice a month.