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Refugees in PNG being pushed to the brink, Amnesty says

Warning: This story contains some graphic details which may be disturbing.

The misery of indefinite detention in Papua New Guinea is pushing increasing numbers of refugees to attempt suicide or self-harm.

This is the finding in a new report by the Refugee Council of Australia and Amnesty International.

refugees in
courtyard, crouching with hands raised

The 119th daily protest on Manus Island, West Lorengau centre, last year. Photo: supplied

In the report, "Until when? The forgotten men on Manus Island," both agencies paint a stark picture of a traumatised refugee population hit hard by Australia's recent healthcare and counselling service cuts, as well as continued threats to their safety.

Claire Mallinson of Amnesty Australia said the worsening health and safety crisis on Manus Island showed Australia's offshore processing system had failed.

Three people have committed suicide and in the last two months at least five others have attempted to end their lives, she said.

One of these men swallowed razor blades and nail clippers.

The report details how the Australian government has halved the number of mental health staff available to the refugees and people seeking asylum it sends to PNG.

It has also terminated torture and trauma counselling services.

The report outlines that it is extremely difficult for refugees to access healthcare in PNG.

It says there is now just one small clinic to serve the over 600 refugees and asylum seekers remaining on Manus Island, as well as the local hospital which is severely understaffed, has no interpreters and often has no ambulance available.

Kurdish journalist and Manus Island refugee Behrouz Boochani tweeted on Wednesday that there had been another suicide attempt at the camp.


He said yesterday that doctors running the medical centre at East Lorengau Transit Centre had aroused tension by refusing to examine a sick refugee.

Guards warned the doctors from Pacific International Hospital (PIH) that not examining the man would cause "serious security issues", Mr Boochani said.


On Monday, the Sudanese refugee Abdul Aziz Adam said a man had attempted self immolation inside the PIH clinic.


Where to get help:

Need to Talk? Free call or text 1737 any time to speak to a trained counsellor, for any reason.

Lifeline: 0800 543 354 or text HELP to 4357

Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 / 0508 TAUTOKO (24/7). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.

Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (24/7)

Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (24/7)

Youthline: 0800 376 633 (24/7) or free text 234 (8am-12am), or email talk@youthline.co.nz

What's Up: online chat (7pm-10pm) or 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 9428 787 children's helpline (1pm-10pm weekdays, 3pm-10pm weekends)

Kidsline (ages 5-18): 0800 543 754 (24/7)

Rural Support Trust Helpline: 0800 787 254

Healthline: 0800 611 116

Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.


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