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Amnesty blames Aus government for suicides on Manus

A report by Amnesty International Australia and the Refugee Council of Australia have pointed the finger at Australia for the increasing number of suicide attempts on Manus Island

Indefinite detention has driven increasing numbers of refugees and asylum seekers to suicide attempts, a new report by humanitarian organisations has found.

Amnesty International Australia and the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) blamed the Australian government for cuts in health services and the threats to safety, having reported concern for the ongoing health of men on Manus Island.

Amnesty International Australia National Director Claire Mallinson, said: “Three people have already committed suicide, driven to despair by years in an open-air prison, and in the last two months at least two others have attempted to end their lives, including one man who swallowed razor blades and nail clippers.”

Mallinson acknowledged that Australia has brought refugee children from detention on Nauru to Australia, following public pressure, but added that the situation for men on Manus Island is “just as acute” and were also in need of urgent treatments.

Over the last year, Australia has halved the number of mental health staff available to refugees and asylum seekers that it sends to Papua New Guinea and has terminated torture and trauma counselling services. Only recently, Médecins Sans Frontières’, the aid organisation that was overseeing children, was forcibly removed from Nauru.

As the report highlights, it is difficult for refugees to access healthcare in PNG and are restricted to one clinic that services over 600 other refugees and asylum seekers that remain on Manus, as well as the local and understaffed hospital.

RCOA’s Director of Policy, Dr Joyce Chia, said: “For the men on Manus Island getting proper healthcare has never been harder. Only a handful are transferred to Australia, and those in PNG increasingly have to pay for their own healthcare and navigate the healthcare system without interpreters.”

As of October 2018, RCOA and Amnesty International Australia has recorded cases of 70 people with serious health conditions who were transferred to Port Moresby for treatment, but in many cases were there for over six months with no improvements.

The organisations have also warned that there is little protection for asylum seekers and refugees against threats of violence and many people fear moving around. In the last year, a refugee has been stabbed repeatedly, one man was threatened death by two intoxicated men and another was attacked with a machete.

Amnesty International and RCOA are calling on the Australian government to ensure people with serious health conditions are guaranteed settlement. They have together collected 125,000 signatures from people who oppose the harsh detention policies.

“The Australian government wants us to forget the men on Manus.” Chia said. “They have done everything they can to suppress the truth, but these brave men there have kept speaking up. They are still Australia’s responsibility, and what has happened to them is still Australia’s shame.”

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