Top Scoops

Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | Scoop News | Wellington Scoop | Community Scoop | Search


Refugee suicide attempts 'epidemic' on Manus Island

Content warning - some people might find some of the details in this story distressing

Suicide attempts among refugees detained on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island by Australia have reached epidemic proportions, an advocate

many detainees,
crouching with their arms crossed in the air

Protest in Mike compound, Manus Island detention centre, 22-8-17 Photo: Supplied

About 500 men remain in detention on the island, where they've been held for six years without trial.

Back on Manus last week for the first time since September, the advocate Ian Rintoul said the mental health crisis among refugees was becoming more acute.

"The epidemic of suicide attempts among refugees on Manus is profoundly concerning," he said.

"Refugees who are owed protection by Australia have been left without hope. Offshore detention is costing them their mental health and their lives."

Seven refugees have died of the island, three of suspected suicide.

In January after visiting Manus, a senior Catholic clergyman said self harm and suicide attempts among the men were "a daily occurrence".

A description of Mr Rintoul's recent trip seems to concur with that statement.

Last week, he visited the island's police station to see a refugee who had tried to hang himself.

Finding the man unresponsive, the advocate described it as "barbaric" that a refugee with "an acute mental health issue" was thrown in a police cell.

Also during his stay, Mr Rintoul visited Lorengau hospital to see a 23-year-old Somali refugee who had overdosed on 1 May.

The man was later returned without supervision to one of three detention centres on the island, he said.

Another refugee took an overdose on 4 May. The suicide attempt by the 32-year-old from Sudan was followed by one from a 25 year-old Iraqi refugee the following day.

The man was prevented from setting himself alight after dousing himself with petrol, but he remains suicidal and socially withdrawn, Mr Rintoul said.

"There is an urgent need to evacuate Manus Island and Nauru, and bring all refugees and asylum seekers to Australia."

Where to get help

These are services across the Pacific for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.

In Tonga


23000 or


In Fiji


667 0565

In Papua New Guinea

Lifeline Port Moresby

326 0011

In Samoa:

Samoa Lifeline


In New Zealand:

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

Lifeline: 0800 543 354

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

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

© Scoop Media

Top Scoops Headlines


Julian Assange: A Thousand Days In Belmarsh
Julian Assange has now been in the maximum-security facilities of Belmarsh prison for over 1,000 days. On the occasion of his 1,000th day of imprisonment, campaigners, supporters and kindred spirits gathered to show their support, indignation and solidarity at this political detention most foul... More>>

Binoy Kampmark: The Mauling Of Novak Djokovic
Rarely can the treatment of a grand sporting figure by officialdom have caused such consternation. Novak Djokovic, the tennis World Number One, has always had a tendency to get under skin and constitution, creating a large following of admirers and detractors. But his current treatment by Australian authorities, and his subsequent detention as an unlawful arrival despite being granted a visa to participate in the Australian Open, had the hallmarks of oppression and incompetent vulgarity... More>>

Binoy Kampmark: Voices Of Concern: Aussies For Assange’s Return

With Julian Assange now fighting the next stage of efforts to extradite him to the United States to face 18 charges, 17 of which are based on the brutal, archaic Espionage Act, some Australian politicians have found their voice. It might be said that a few have even found their conscience... More>>

Forbidden Parties: Boris Johnson’s Law On Illegal Covid Gatherings

It was meant to be time to reflect. The eager arms of a new pandemic were enfolding a society with asphyxiating, lethal effect. Public health authorities advocated various measures: social distancing, limited contact between family and friends, limited mobility. No grand booze-ups. No large parties. No bonking, except within dispensations of intimacy and various “bubble” arrangements. Certainly, no orgies... More>>

Dunne Speaks: Question Time Is Anything But
The focus placed on the first couple of Question Time exchanges between the new leader of the National Party and the Prime Minister will have seemed excessive to many but the most seasoned Parliamentary observers. Most people, especially those outside the Wellington beltway, imagine Question Time is exactly what it sounds... More>>

Gasbagging In Glasgow: COP26 And Phasing Down Coal

Words can provide sharp traps, fettering language and caging definitions. They can also speak to freedom of action and permissiveness. At COP26, that permissiveness was all the more present in the haggling ahead of what would become the Glasgow Climate Pact... More>>