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“Catastrophic neglect”

By Julie Grint

The death of a Sri Lankan Tamil refugee in Papua New Guinea is the sixth fatality on Manus Island in just four years. Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border protection (DIBP) confirmed the death at Lorengau Hospital but handballed all inquiries to the PNG authorities. It’s believed the 32-year-old man took his own life early on Monday morning. Former Manus Island MP Ron Knight said the magistrate on the island will be conducting a coroner’s investigation over coming days.

This man’s body needs to be brought to Australia immediately for a proper forensic autopsy and a coronial inquest. Unlike the last death on Manus a few weeks ago where nothing eventuated and the matter was handballed to the PNG government. The detainees remain the full responsibility of the Australian government as our Minister for Immigration makes all the decisions regarding the treatment, welfare and freedom of movement of the detainees The PNG government simply does as it is told by Australian officials as they are heavily dependent on financial aid from Australia and do not want to offend.

“It seems like a suicide but it’s not confirmed yet,” Mr Knight, former MP for Manus told AAP. He said locals had become increasingly frustrated with the problems that have come with hosting the immigration detention centre, which is slated for closure at the end of this month. “When people have to resort to something like this to prove a point, it means that something is terribly wrong with the whole detention system,” Mr Knight said. Refugee Action Coalition (RAC) spokesman Ian Rintoul said the man had been sent to the East Lorengau hospital (ELH), a very basic facility like an Australian bush nursing hospital but with fewer resources, three days earlier and subsequently discharged back into the community.

ELH has no psychiatric nurses or facilities to deal with the mentally ill despite the presence of the Manus RPC for the past 4 years and its cohort of troubled men. IHMS did not provide adequate psychiatric and psychological care as evidenced by two deaths within a matter of weeks.

Greens senator Nick McKim said the case was “catastrophic neglect” from Immigration Minister Peter Dutton. “This man had suffered for four (4) years in a system that Australia’s Labor and Liberal parties deliberately designed and operated to cause men harm.”

A system deliberately designed to cause both physical and mental harm

Physical harm via the provision of inadequate and poor-quality food for which the Australian taxpayer was paying a great deal; $500,000 per detainee p.a., to be exact.

This money was meant to be for the provision of meals, clothing, shelter, cleaning, sanitation, recreation, medical care and security. Methinks that the contractors, Broadspectrum subsequently taken over by Ferrovial a large Spanish infrastructure company, Wilson security and IHMS (Medical services) made exorbitant profits on these contracts with the Federal government. The Australian taxpayer has not been getting value for money. Time for a thorough financial audit by the ANAO.

Mental harm

Creating a highly stressful environment in which the detainees feel they have no control over their lives and no hope of release or resettlement. Such an environment just makes anxiety and depression much worse. In susceptible individuals’ insomnia due to anxiety and depression can trigger an underlying bipolar disorder and either a period of mania or a complete psychotic break. This is what I believe happened to the Iranian refugee Hamed Shamshiripour. His body was found near refugee accommodation in East Lorengau in early August 2017. His death was either a suicide or murder, we await the results of the investigation by the PNG police and coroner. I have very little faith that any such inquest by the Papuans will shed much light on the cause of Hamed’s death. Conveniently any Coroner’s inquest held in PNG does not have the legal authority to call Australian public servants to give evidence as to their role in refusing to provide adequate and appropriate medical care and evacuation to Australia for Hamed.

This latest death of this Tamil refugee comes as 54 refugees or 2.7% out of total of approx 2,000 detainees left Manus Island PNG (cohort of 800 men) and Nauru (1,250 men women and children) for a new life in the USA. Some more are expected to follow in coming months. How many more no one knows at this stage and this may all just be a propaganda exercise by the Turnbull government and Trump administration.


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  1. Terry2

    We have been ultra cute in sending these people offshore for the plain and simple objective of taking them beyond the reach of our courts and our legal system.

    Already we have seen what happens when people finally gains access to justice as inevitably they will. The class action brought on behalf of Manus detainees in the Supreme Court of Victoria was an enormous embarrassment for the Australian government who elected not to defend the action based on neglect, torture and unlawful imprisonment – it was indefensible. A judgement of $70 million was made in favour of the refugees and asylum seekers with plaintiffs costs in addition estimated at $20 million.

    This is just the beginning and as these people are progressively released, as ultimately they must be, they will seek redress for the damage and injury suffered by them and this will cost the Australian taxpayer dearly.

    Whether Dutton and his cronies will ever face international criminal and humanitarian legal redress remains to be seen. But it is conceivable that international justice will catch up with Dutton, as it should.

    This episode will be recorded in the history of Australian infamy and we all need to reflect on what we have allowed to happen in our names.

    I for one am ashamed !

  2. helvityni

    Our PM likes to talk about MY government, he refers to Oz as a successful multi-cultural society. No thanks to YOUR government, Mr PM and your heartless Immigration Minister…

    It put tears in my eyes to see how happy those two lucky asylum seekers were on their arrival to USA, fifty is not many, but I hope more will be accepted… What will happen to the rest of them.

    I too am ashamed.

  3. casbar

    Ashamed #3 citizen of Australia, here. As a result of my work; I am aware of detainees at Villawood with chronic illnesses that are almost impossible to treat. So much so that one of the medical specialists with whom I work; rang the centre to ask them exactly what they expected us to do when the detainees were being fed such a poor quality diet which only worsened their chronic illnesses.

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