12/14/2019
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Refugee suicide attempts ‘epidemic’ on Manus Island


Tuesday May 7, 2019


Protest in Mike compound, Manus Island detention centre, 22-8-17 Photo: Supplied

Suicide attempts among refugees detained on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island by Australia have reached epidemic proportions

Content warning – some people might find some of the details in this story distressing

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Suicide attempts among refugees detained on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island by Australia have reached epidemic proportions, an advocate

About 500 men remain in detention on the island, where they’ve been held for six years without trial.

Back on Manus last week for the first time since September, the advocate Ian Rintoul said the mental health crisis among refugees was becoming more acute.

“The epidemic of suicide attempts among refugees on Manus is profoundly concerning,” he said.

“Refugees who are owed protection by Australia have been left without hope. Offshore detention is costing them their mental health and their lives.”

Seven refugees have died of the island, three of suspected suicide.

In January after visiting Manus, a senior Catholic clergyman said self harm and suicide attempts among the men were “a daily occurrence”.

A description of Mr Rintoul’s recent trip seems to concur with that statement.

Last week, he visited the island’s police station to see a refugee who had tried to hang himself.

Finding the man unresponsive, the advocate described it as “barbaric” that a refugee with “an acute mental health issue” was thrown in a police cell.

Also during his stay, Mr Rintoul visited Lorengau hospital to see a 23-year-old Somali refugee who had overdosed on 1 May.

The man was later returned without supervision to one of three detention centres on the island, he said.

Another refugee took an overdose on 4 May. The suicide attempt by the 32-year-old from Sudan was followed by one from a 25 year-old Iraqi refugee the following day.

The man was prevented from setting himself alight after dousing himself with petrol, but he remains suicidal and socially withdrawn, Mr Rintoul said.

“There is an urgent need to evacuate Manus Island and Nauru, and bring all refugees and asylum seekers to Australia.”



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