Nauru dengue fever outbreak raises health concerns for asylum seekers

April 25, 2014

The Refugee Action Coalition Sydney released this statement on April 16.


An outbreak of dengue fever has hit Nauru, raising concerns for the short-term and long-term heath and welfare of asylum seekers being held on the island.

At least three people (staff and detainees) have been confirmed suffering dengue fever. Another 12 cases are presently confirmed in the Nauruan population by a spokesperson for the Nauru general hospital.

But local sources say there have been many fever cases on Nauru over the last two weeks. Asylum seekers presenting with fevers have been given just panadol.

Between October and March, Fiji recorded more than 10,000 cases of dengue fever, with 11 deaths. There have been 35 cases in Auckland to March this year, 24 of them recorded among travelers returning from Fiji. Dengue fever has also emerged in French Polynesia, Vanuatu and New Caledonia.

Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition said: “This outbreak of dengue fever is only the latest reason to close the Nauru detention centre. It was always known that dengue fever was an issue on Nauru. In 2003, twenty asylum seekers were reported to have dengue; eight were hospitalized.

“All the staff and the detainees suffering with dengue fever should be immediately brought to the Australian mainland. Arrangements must be made to evacuate all the asylum seekers from Nauru.

“Nauru has already stated that refugees will not be permanently resettled on the island. It is the worst kind of politically motivated policy to jeopardise the physical health of asylum seekers by keeping them on Nauru.

“High fever is a particular risk to pregnant women yet there are many women and family groups in detention on the island and the Minister insists that pregnant women and family groups will continue to be sent there. Dengue has both short and long-term health effects, and has already killed people in Fiji.

“Nauru is being kept open to maintain the fiction that the Coalition’s offshore processing is working regardless of the asylum seekers’ health and human rights.”

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