Indefinite detention in camps on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea have pushed increasing numbers of asylum seekers and refugees to suicide attempts and self-harm, Amnesty International says in a report.
The report, released on Wednesday in collaboration with the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA), blamed the Australian government for cuts in health services and continued threats to the safety of the undocumented immigrants on the island.
“Three people have already committed suicide, driven to despair by years in an open-air prison, and in the last two months at least five others have attempted to end their lives, including one man who swallowed razor blades and nail clippers,” said Claire Mallinson, national director of Amnesty International Australia.
The release of the report coincides with the increase in evacuations to Australia of dozens of children with their families, who had been detained at another centre in Nauru, after suffering serious mental health issues.
The transfers took place following pressure from doctors and activists due to the humanitarian crisis in the Nauru and Manus centres that Australia re-opened when it resumed its mandatory overseas detention policy in 2012.
“The situation for the men on Manus Island is just as acute,” said Mallinson, who added that Australia has halved the number of mental health staff available to those detained on Manus where the local hospital often has no interpreters or ambulances.
According to RCOA, Australia, until October 21, had 1278 immigrants in these centers, including 495 in Manus who have been recognised as refugees.
RCOA Policy Director Dr Joyce Chia highlighted the case of Hamid Khazaei “who died from sepsis after cutting his foot on Manus Island (which) was the result of a catalogue of delays and errors.”
Last month, Amnesty recorded 70 cases of people with serious health conditions such as stomach and gastric issues, hernias, vision and mental health issues for months and who have been treated in Port Moresby without significant progress.
Mallison urged Australia to contribute to the opening of legal and safe transit routes for immigrants and to open the door to more refugees, as well as the acceleration of procedures for reviewing asylum applications.
The report coincided with the confirmation by the Australian government that it will not sign the United Nations’ Global Compact for Migration, agreed in July, arguing that it affected its sovereignty.