A Sri Lankan asylum seeker has died while being held in Australian immigration detention on Manus Island, Australian media reported.
The man was a Sri Lankan Tamil asylum seeker, and was reportedly in Lorengau Hospital receiving treatment for mental illness.
The Manus Island police chief, David Yapu, told Fairfax , “We had a suicide of a refugee at the Lorengau hospital in the early hours of this morning.” This man is the second refugee to die by suicide on Manus Island in the past two months.
The death is one of a handful of tragic and preventable deaths (including six on Manus Island alone) that have occurred in the detention centres in the past few years. The latest has happened against the backdrop of Turnbull shutting down the facility on Manus Island.
The Manus Island detention centre is being closed after Papua New Guinea ruled that the detention centre — which is run by PNG government and law-enforcement officials but sponsored by the Australian Federal Government — was in violation of human rights.
In 2016 the PNG Supreme Court ruled in a landmark decision that the centre breached the PNG constitutional right to personal liberty. Additionally, the Prime Minister of PNG, Peter O’Neill, somewhat ominously said to reporters, “We did not anticipate the asylum seekers to be kept as long as they have at the Manus centre.”
The recent death on Manus Island is said to have exponentially increased anxiety and distress for other detainees, the majority of whom are suffering from depression, Generalised Anxiety Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. The head of the Refugeee Action Coalition, Ian Rintoul, has told reporters, “The death has increased the anxiety and distress among all the refugees and asylum seekers on Manus as they struggle with their own circumstances. There are two other extremely mentally distressed people who urgently need assistance.”
Last year a review into mental health conditions in Australian offshore detention revealed that around 215 of the 400 people who completed a 2014 Harvard Trauma Questionaire exhibited signs of severe mental distress. Those refugees who have been interned for more than two years are at increased risk of suffering mental illness, and children (who are still interred in Australian-sponsored offshore camps despite frequent government protests to the contrary) are said to be at the most extreme risk.
This latest death has happened just days after Immigration and Border Protection Minister Peter Dutton’s bizarre rant about “Armani refugees” sunning themselves on the beaches of Nauru and Manus Island, which anyone with half a brain knows… is not the situation at all.