In a move to ensure Australia remains Ebola free, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has announced that no visas will be issued to those travelling from Ebola-affected countries. The measures include the temporary suspension of the immigration and humanitarian program for those wishing to travel from West Africa, as well as the cancellation of the temporary visas of those who have yet to depart for Australia.
Addressing Parliament yesterday, Mr Morrison said, “The Government has strong controls for the entry of persons to Australia under our immigration program from West Africa. These measures have been put in place in partnership with the Minister for Health, who leads the Government’s response.”
Those travelling from Ebola-affected countries, through the humanitarian program, before the suspension took place have been subject to rigorous screening, with three health checks before departure, screening on arrival and post-arrival monitoring.
Permanent visa holders are also being screened more rigorously, with a 21-day quarantine period required before departing for Australia.
Profiling of those entering Australia from infected countries has been in place since August and has resulted in 830 people requiring further assessment. “None of those persons, I note, has been required to be referred to a hospital on their arrival,” said Mr Morrison
The Ebola epidemic has claimed almost 5000 lives and the Australian Government has been criticised over its response, with Labor, Greens and the Australian Medical Association calling for assistance to be sent to affected areas.
Tony Abbott has stated that his priority is to ensure that Australia is prepared to tackle any cases which may reach our shores, or occur in neighbouring countries with less robust medical systems, such as Papua New Guinea. However, he has not ruled out sending personnel to assist. “Nevertheless, we are continuing to talk to our friends and partners about what more might be done to address the situation in West Africa. I certainly do not rule out Australia doing more,” he told Parliament.
Health Minister Peter Dutton confirmed that if any health personnel were sent overseas to assist in treating those affected, it would be on the proviso that adequate medical attention would be available for those who contract the virus. “We are not going to send health workers into harm’s way if we don’t have appropriate medical assistance for them on the ground,” Mr Dutton said.
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By not immediately agreeing to send health workers to West Africa to help treat those affected by the Ebola outbreak, the Government has acted in the best interests of Australians. Rushing off to fight ‘the enemy’ without having procedures in place to deal with the consequences is down right foolish. This considered response is new, and I like it.
I’m not being dismissive of the plight of those in West Africa who are suffering from this terrible disease, and I believe that providing aid where we can is necessary. However, let’s make sure the aid and health workers who unselfishly risk their own wellbeing to help others can be kept as safe as possible and that we have the resources in place to treat them should the unthinkable happen.
And neither am I against Australia taking in those less fortunate than ourselves, but again, I don’t think we should be opening up our borders unnecessary risk; to a disease which we are not equipped to deal with in any great numbers. We have been lucky up until now that the several suspected cases which have arrived in Australia have been negative, but we cannot keep our country safe on luck alone.
So, while some may see the Government’s response as harsh and uncaring, I would prefer to see it as considered and measured, and when the time is right, and only then, should we send assistance to those in need.
Do you agree with the closing of our borders to those from Ebola-affected countries? Should we be doing more to help countries battling the disease? In a time of globalisation, is it selfish to think of Australia’s health and safety first?