Bring dying refugee to Australia for palliative care, urge health professionals

Thousands of doctors have signed a petition calling on the immigration minister, Peter Dutton, to bring a refugee dying of advanced lung cancer to Australia for palliative care.

The 63-year-old is being held on Nauru and is a member of the persecuted Hazara minority in Afghanistan. He has been formally recognised as a refugee. But the Australian Border Force told the man that he could not come to Australia for palliative care, despite claims that the palliative care available on Nauru is inadequate.

The Australian Border Force  (ABF) has told the 63-year-old patient, who is suffering from advanced lung cancer, that he is deemed to have “refused treatment” because he declined to be moved to Taiwan to die. Cynically, the ABF has also offered the patient $25,000 to return home to Afghanistan.

According to the Guardian newspaper, the patient told the ABF he did not want to go to Taiwan because he did not know anybody there, was concerned there would be no translator from his language, Hazaraghi, and that there would be no one to perform the Shia Muslim rituals and ceremonies on his body when he died.

Dr Sara Townend, a Sydney GP and palliative care doctor,  wrote to Mr Dutton that  “Australia has accepted this man as a legitimate refugee.

“This means Australia is obligated by international conventions to care for his physical and mental health, whether he is on the mainland, or offshore. Nauru is not an appropriate place for this man to die. The Australian Border Force tacitly acknowledged this by offering to transfer him to Taiwan for palliative care. He requires expertise beyond what is available on Nauru.”

According to the World Health Organisation, palliative care is an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problem associated with life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psychosocial and spiritual.

Australia has accepted this man as a legitimate refugee.

Australia is a signatory to major World Health Organisation treaties that oblige us to care for this man.

Palliverse calls on Mr Dutton to intervene and allow the patient to come to Australia for appropriate palliative care, which includes the psychosocial support provided by his own community and appropriately skilled health care providers.

Feel free to join 20,000 others and sign the petition 

Doctors may also sign Dr Sara Townend’s petition here and can contact her on

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