Asylum seekers attempt suicide on Manus Island

| January 13, 2013 | Reply

This morning around 11.30am, an Iraqi asylum seeker attempted to hang himself on Manus Island.

The man, thought to be in his 30s, and who has children in Iraq, was part of the group of 40 asylum seekers transferred from Darwin to Manus Island yesterday. He is currently in the medical centre, and his condition is unknown. One asylum seeker told the Refugee Action Coalition that, “He looked dead,” when he was taken down.

Two other young Iraqis also apparently attempted suicide last night when they climbed the camp fence and walked into the sea. They were rescued by G4S guards.

Yesterday’s transfer has left the Manus Island detention centre distressed and in despair. Most of the those transferred yesterday have refused to eat meals.

There is currently an impromptu protest gathering at the gates of the detention centre of people concerned about the welfare of the Iraqi man.

The attempted suicide comes as tensions continue to mount over conditions and internet use in the detention centre.

Phone conversations and being monitored after photos of the conditions in the camp were sent to refugee advocates in Australia ten days ago.

Access to the internet for each asylum seeker has been cut from one hour a day to one hour three times a week.

On 7 January, the asylum seekers issued another letter (text below) to the Department of Immigration expressing their concerns with the conditions and giving them until 14 January to reply.

The Refugee Action Coalition is calling on the government to halt the discriminatory transfers of asylum seekers to Manus Island and Nauru; to end the Pacific Solution 2.0 and to make immediate arrangements to bring all asylum seekers to mainland Australia.

For more information contact Ian Rintoul mob 0417 275 713

Letter to DIAC, 7 January.

Thanks DIAC for answering our letter.

The Response was very confused and unrelated to our questions.

That’s why we are writing again.

You note our concerns about standards of facilities and amenities.

But we have a number of further Questions which have been raised by your response to our letter to you.

We would appreciate if you could answer them rather than ignoring the points we make.

1. Why you transfer people here before the Centre was ready for it. Things are still not complete. Facilities are unprepared and unfinished. Policies are not in place.

Eg. We were told there would be a 30 day quarantine period then we would be able to move around the community in Manus Island. Now we are told PNG government has still not approved this.

We are waiting for racks to dry our clothes on, doors on our rooms, air conditioning in our school or in places we meet. Nothing is finished or complete. Everything takes so long.

2. You state that the reason this law was implemented was to stop people coming to Australia by boat. Clearly this has not worked. Since this new policy was introduced on August 13 everything has become worse since this date .. 8000 people arrived, it has not worked.

And how can this law apply to just 130 people and many thousands others have different treatment.

3. Also you have sent many people here who are highly qualified and educated, with many years experience and specialist in their professions, and able to make great contribution to Australia. Again we ask what criteria did you use to choose those who would be transferred for processing to PNG?

What does this mean exactly? Is this justice or a cruel game?

4. Your letter said “All those transferred and accommodated in RPC’s are treated with dignity and respect and in accordance with human rights standards.” What kind of dignity and respect are you talking about. We were transferred here like criminals.

5, You say you are working with the PNG government. But you brought us to a place that has no law or legal process to accept refugees.

6. You say you respect women and children and that children matter greatly to you. But because of their placement here our children become more violent, are under severe mental pressure because they think they are prisoners. They blame us for bringing them here and this is affecting our relationships with them. The children complain about the food being provided and tell us constantly they are unable to eat it because of the heat and it is not hygienic. As parents we are so concerned and worried about the future and welfare of our children.

We know that Australia is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child since 1990 and you therefore know these rules and the obligations that accompany them.

By sending children to this centre for refugees on Manus Island you are not following or keeping to the undertakings you have signed.

7. You say in your letter for us to discuss any health concerns with IHMS directly, but they cannot help us with many of the medical conditions we are suffering with here. IHMS were described as well trained and specialists who would have access to all the facilities required to provide good health care, the same as in Australia. The truth is that they can’t do much about our health problems because they tell us that they have inadequate facilities and services available here. This includes dentistry, optometrist, Women’s medical issues, kidney stones, asthma, reflux of stomach, thyroid, allergies, pimples, rashes and skin conditions, or any unusual, out of the ordinary condition. How do we get proper health care in these circumstances?

You also have brought us and our children to a place of high risk for malaria, the worst in the world.

We have also suffered from side effects from the injections and malarial treatment we have received. Again this is something that those on the Australian mainland do not have to experience.

8. Conditions in the school are unsuitable for education and our children will not attend because of the heat and lack of resources. We are concerned that the quality of education available to our children at the “local facilities” you refer to will be inadequate and far less than what they would have access to if they were being processed in Australia.

9. With respect you say that the conditions in which we are living are similar to conditions in which staff are living and working. While this is true in some aspects there is one big difference you neglect to mention. That is that service provider staff have air conditioners in their living rooms while we do NOT. In a hot climate like PNG this makes a very big difference to our ability to sleep at night and deal with this hard environment. Staff here are also only here for one month or short durations and don’t have to endure these conditions month after month without ending. They also do not have children with them. Ask them “would they bring their children to live in this place?”

You say that our conditions should be comparable to those experienced by the local people of Manus Island. Again and with respect, the people here live in very different conditions to Australian standards with many having no running water, limited electricity, and houses open to the elements. Do you really mean that we should live in a similar way to this while the people we came to Australia with are living in the cities of Australia, in good houses, with access to all the things that Australia has. How is it fair or just to treat people with the same situation and request for protection in such very different ways and using different standards.

10. On many occasions we have requested to speak to DIAC or a representative of the Australian government to respectfully discuss our concerns and situation. This has always been refused and we again request that someone from the government come to discuss these things with us.

11. We also have had no response to our questions relating to the length of time we will be here. We need to know this to be able to tolerate this situation and make plans for our future.

12. We are also concerned for our safety and security here. The training of the local guards to protect themselves and know what to do in a crisis is very poor and makes us concerned that our welfare is at risk if something serious were to happen here. People in the Australian community don’t face this risk or danger. They have the full protection of the Australian police.

13. Are you prepared to sacrifice children here to achieve your policy. Do you have no concern that the adults also are suffering and deteriorating mentally every day they are here. What use will we be after this is over to society if we are mentally scarred and depressed from this experience? How can be be good parents or siblings in this environment? We don’t want the rest of lives effected by obsessions and other mental effects. We don’t want to become needy or dependant constantly needing help of doctors and mental specialists. We don’t want to feel our life is worthless and empty. We want to be healthy mentally when we go to Australia or another country and be useful.

Finally we ask why you did not even answer our request to have a copy of the photo we sent you made available for us. This is our property and we are not in detention we are told and should have the right to take an image of ourselves to use as we wish. Please answer our request and provide us with this photo as we requested.

We have also asked to speak to a journalist and TV journalists at the Centre and would like permission for this to happen so they can truthfully see our living conditions.

Can you reply within a week (14/1/13) to our requests.

Yours Faithfully

On behalf of Iranian and Iraqi asylum seekers- Manus Island

Category: Press releases

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