A 24 year-old Iranian asylum seeker, Hamid Khazaei, who was flown from Manus Island to Brisbane in a medical emergency on August 27, was declared “brain dead” on September 1. His life support was switched off and he died on September 5.
The Refugee Action Coalition in Sydney reported: “By the time Hamid was sent to Brisbane, he was suffering septicaemia from an infection spreading from a cut foot and went directly into intensive care in the Mater hospital. He had sought medical attention for days on Manus Island for the pain and the infection.
“A couple of days ago, he suffered a heart attack and on September 1 the Immigration Department and the hospital told the family that Hamid was confirmed as ‘brain dead’.”
His family, who are overseas, made the decision on September 5 to switch off his life support. They agreed to donate his organs.
This is the second death of an asylum seeker in detention on Manus Island. In February, Reza Berati, also from Iran, was beaten to death during riots at the centre. Witnesses have alleged guards were responsible for the violence, in which other asylum seekers were also attacked, but no one has been charged over the death.
Conditions are poor inside the detention centre on Manus Island. The tropical heat, combined with cramped living conditions and low levels of sanitation, can lead to health conditions escalating to dangerous levels.
In November, Amnesty International investigated conditions there and found chronic overcrowding, inadequate medical facilities to meet the growing demand for health services, and too few showers and toilets, resulting in unhygienic conditions.
Refugee Action Coalition spokesperson Ian Rintoul said: “Hamid is a victim of the shocking conditions and medical neglect on Manus Island. It is inexcusable that he developed septicaemia on Manus Island.
“Once again, [immigration minister] Scott Morrison is responsible for a death on Manus Island. There are scores of infections on Manus Island, and many complaints of the lack of medical attention. Asylum seekers on Manus Island are often forced to walk through raw sewage.
“Nothing more obviously reveals Manus Island as a unhygienic hell-hole that must be closed.”
The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre has called for “a full, frank and independent inquiry” into Khazaei’s death.
It said: “Morrison must be held to account for the latest tragedy on Manus Island.
“[He] side-stepped responsibility for the death of Reza Berati on Manus Island in February this year. He cannot side-step responsibility for this second tragic waste of young life by claiming this is a matter for the PNG government. Duty of care for asylum seekers on Manus Island rests with him and his government.”
The contract to provide health services on Manus Island is held by International Health and Medical Services (IHMS). It is paid $2.5 million a month by the Australian government for these services. A former doctor who worked for IHMS told Four Corners in April last year: "The whole time I was there it was just a disaster, medically.
"One of the problems at Manus Island is its remoteness. Worst of all, this established 24-hour delay, between calling for a medical evacuation by air and the plane arriving and getting the sick person out, is just too long.”
Morrison continued his practice of releasing scarce information to journalists. He claimed on September 3 that Khazaei had not died, despite the fact doctors had confirmed he was brain dead.
Australians have the right to know if people are dying as a result of being locked up in a detention system run by the Australian government. But Morrison refused to go into detail about the case, telling journalists: "In respect to the family of the individual further details are not able to be provided.”
Morrison also tried to deflect attention away from the horrendous conditions on the island by attacking the Greens for “politicising” the situation after Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young rightly pointed out "there is something seriously wrong when a minor injury such as a cut foot can result in a tragedy like this”.
After news broke of Kehazaei’s death, vigils were quickly organised around the country on September 4 and 5. Hundreds of people gathered at Sydney Town Hall and at Birrarung Marr in Melbourne to light candles and hear from speakers. A midday vigil was also held outside Brisbane’s Mater Hospital on September 4.