Skip To Content

    The Refugee Who Was Dying Of Cancer On Nauru Has Been Brought To Australia

    More than 2,000 Australian doctors signed a letter to home affairs minister Peter Dutton.

    A refugee with terminal lung cancer has been flown to Australia for palliative care after more than 2,000 Australian doctors signed a letter to immigration minister Peter Dutton.

    Rhonda Ung/Supplied

    Doctors and medical students march through Sydney to demand an end to Australia's offshore detention policy, April 2018.

    The 63-year-old, a member of Afghanistan's persecuted Hazara minority, has been formally recognised as a refugee and, given he has been found to have a well-founded fear of persecution if he was returned to Afghanistan, Australia can't legally return him to his wife and children.

    He was flown by air ambulance from Nauru to Brisbane on Saturday afternoon, landing at 6:45pm local time, Guardian Australia has reported.

    The Department of Home Affairs originally offered to send the man to Taiwan for palliative care. He refused as he has no friends or family there, was not sure if there would be a translator from his language of Hazaragi, and did not believe there would be someone appropriate to perform the Shia Muslim rituals after his death.

    He has worked as a builder during his five years held on Nauru, where he earnt $4 an hour, Dr Nick Martin, a senior doctor who worked on Nauru from November 2016 to August 2017, told BuzzFeed News.

    "All that money he sent back to his son who is a medical student and wants to be a doctor," Martin said. "This is an honourable man who is now being left to die a lonely death with inadequate medical care."

    BuzzFeed News has contacted the Department of Home Affairs for comment.

    The latest government figures, released in April, show there are still 255 men, women, and children detained on Nauru.

    BuzzFeed News/Google Earth

    A BuzzFeed News investigation in October revealed asylum seekers with life-threatening medical conditions held in Australia’s offshore detention regime were facing treatment delays so severe that a whistleblower feared it may cost them their lives.

    Martin was the most senior official deployed on the remote Pacific nation of Nauru ever to publicly speak out about Australia’s offshore immigration system, as part of a joint investigation between BuzzFeed News and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

    He alleged that patients with breast lumps, kidney stones, and neurological damage were delayed diagnostic treatments; and that severely diabetic asylum seekers held within the detention regime were at risk of going blind.

    Patients who needed medical facilities that were not available on the island had to be transferred to the Papua New Guinea capital of Port Moresby, or Australia — but often Australian officials would delay these transfers, worsening the patients' medical conditions and potentially endangering their lives.

    Gina Rushton is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.

    Contact Gina Rushton at

    Got a confidential tip? Submit it here