Australia criticised over Ebola visa decision

West African leaders and the United Nations have criticised Australia's decision to suspend entry visas for people from Ebola-affected countries.

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West African leaders and the United Nations have criticised Australia's decision to suspend entry visas for people from Ebola-affected countries.

The federal government has stopped processing visa applications for people wanting to travel to Australia from Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.

The travel ban imposed by Australia is being attacked on several fronts, with the United Nations saying the measures could discourage people form taking part in much needed relief work.

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Sierra Leone's information minister Alpha Kanu says its draconian, discriminatory and certainly not the right way to go.

Liberia's president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, wants Australia to re-consider.

"We would just like the international community to continue this as a global threat, that stigmatisation, exclusion, restriction is not the appropriate response to this."

Bobby Whitfield is the president of the group Liberian Communities in Australia.

He believes Ebola is being used as an excuse to cut the refugee intake from Africa.

"Kind of an alienate policy, a cruel policy in place by the government indeed all refugees and to lessen the government burden of refugee intake from Africa, Ebola is now an excuse."

Mr Whitfield says the decision only makes its worse for people from his native country who are living in Australia.

"What this is doing in our community has got ramification, a ripple affect in our community, when our kids go to school they've been called Ebola, you know, when our parents sit on the public transport they've been looked at and nobody will want to sit by them because the government is really waving this flag, this signposting, oh look stay away, stay away by these kind of draconian policies and abrupt, you know, measures taken."

The head of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim says Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia need five thousand health workers at any one time and he's worried about meeting that demand.

Australia has resisted numerous appeals to send medical personnel.

The United States has requested Australia's help and has been urging countries not to sit back and let it take the lead.

The US sent its Disaster Assistance Response Team to West Africa in early August.

President Obama says the team is doing what it takes to make sure that medical personnel and health care workers from all countries have what they need to get the job done.

He says there's been some progress in Liberia.

"They're starting to see some progress in Liberia and the infrastructure is beginning to get built out, that's thanks to the incredible work and dedication of folks from the United States who are leading the way in helping Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone."


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3 min read
Published 29 October 2014 at 3:44pm
By Greg Dyett