Refugees on Manus speak out after another death

Medical students at a Detention Harms Health refugee rally in Sydney on April 7. Photo: Zeb Parkes

Another person who came to Australia seeking safety and security died on Manus Island on May 22. The Rohingya man is the seventh person to die on Manus Island since Labor re-established offshore detention.

The man died after jumping out of a bus — it is being reported as a suicide. Doctors for Refugees had been calling on the government to bring him here for more than a year as he suffers from epilepsy.

He was taken to Australia for medical care two years ago — he was sent back to Manus Island without having had the treatment he needed. It is reported he would often collapse on the ground, but immigration officials would ignore him.

Since the closure of the detention centre late last year, the access to medical services for refugees has been significantly cut. A new report by Amnesty International, Health care cuts: Australia’s reduced health care support for refugees and asylum seekers in Papua New Guinea, reveals the extent of the health care crisis and conflicts caused by forcing several hundred refugees to use the local underfunded and understaffed PNG hospital on Manus Island.

The Australian government has refused to comment on his death, saying it is a matter for PNG. Yet Dutton is forcing people to stay on Manus Island or agree to being deported to danger. Only a handful has been accepted under the US deal and some will never be accepted under current US immigration policies. Other offers, such as New Zealand’s, have been rejected by Dutton.

In the face of this tragedy, refugees on Manus Island have continued to show humanity and defiance. Many are bravely speaking out — often at personal risk. Here is what some of them said.

Behrouz Boochani said: “The refugees on Manus are deeply saddened and horrified by the news of another friend’s death. All of us knew him closely and we were aware of his illness the whole time …

“Peter Dutton is responsible for his death. It was Australia that exiled him by force to Manus. It was Australia that put him in a prison for years and completely ignored his illness. It’s time for an independent investigation on all the deaths on Manus, Nauru and Christmas Island. This needs to stop, urgently.”

Naeem Bangash said: “Alas, another tragedy out of the July 19 policy.

“He could have been treated successfully in Australia but unfortunately they turned a blind eye to him. He begged them again and again to have a little mercy on him but in vain, as he was a simpleton to seek medical attention from tyrants of the day in Manus. We inmates are extremely sad and worried at the loss of another life. May Allah, almighty, rest his soul in heaven and give patience to his bereaved family.”

MD Imran said: “Today, another precious life on Manus Island, has been taken.

“Nothing will console us knowing that our friend has gone because of the Australian government's continuing cruelty and neglect. He would never have died, if he had been given the treatment and the care he needed.

“I recall telling the security guards on hundreds of occasions that he would die here if he did not receive the proper treatment for his epilepsy. He had been through hell for five years and all we could do was watch him suffer and call the security guards to take him to the hospital in the hope he would receive effective treatment.

“I wonder if the authorities are feeling triumphant tonight, knowing there is one less innocent to be concerned about, although as they have not shown any compassion in all these years, I doubt they will even acknowledge his death.

“I express my condolences and those of my brothers on Manus Island, to his wife, children and everyone in his family, may they receive Allah's blessing.”

Ghulam Mustafa said: “There's blood on your hands. One more has died. An epilepsy patient suffered for ages and yesterday he went with me back to the camp, but the doctor deliberately didn't meet with us. Curses upon this systematic torture.

Amir Taghinia said: “For three years we wrote many requests to IHMS [International Health and Medical Services] and DIBP [Department of Immigration and Border Protection] to help an elderly refugee with epilepsy, but they ignored him. No surprise. He is dead today, and this is not the first person that #Australian government has killed".

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