ASYLUM SEEKERS held at the Manus Island detention centre in Papua New Guinea temporarily took control of two compounds and expelled guards following the death of a fellow refugee who fell ill at the centre, local police said on Sunday.
The Immigration Department said the 27-year-old Sudanese refugee, known as Faysal Ishak Ahmed, was taken to the International Health and Medical Services clinic (IHMS) on the island for urgent treatment after a collapse and was then air-lifted to Australia for further treatment.
However, Faysal died at the hospital on Saturday. According to the coroner, there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding his death.
Dissatisfaction over Faysal’s death and the belief that it could have been avoided led the detainees to drive out the guards from two compounds last night, using non-violent intimidation.
Iranian refugee Behrouz Boochani, who is currently being held on Manus Island, said in a Facebook post that Faysal had been of poor health for over six months, but alleged that the medical staff refused to take him seriously.
“Many times Faysal collapsed and all of us here knew that he was seriously sick. More than 60 people wrote a letter to IHMS and explained to them how Faysal was sick and had constant headaches and a heart problem, but they did not care,” he wrote.
The Australian government must answer us. 'What has happened with Faysal?' IHMS is a criminal system and must answer to…
Boochani added that just days before Faysal’s death, an IHMS nurse told him that he was fine and didn’t require medical treatment.
“This system has forgotten all its values and dignity that a health provider has to be obliged to. It has forgotten the values and dignity of protecting the health of people and is instead protecting its financial interests and benefits. This is a crime that shouldn’t be ignored easily,” said Boochani, demanding that the Australian government provide answers.
Refugee rights groups have also criticised how the case was handled. Refugee Action Coalition (RAC) spokesman Ian Rintoul said Faysal’s death threw “a stark light on medical failures of IHMS… and the lack of proper medical treatment on Manus”.
“We do not yet know the precise case of Faysal’s death whether it is the head injuries he suffered or his underlying medical condition,” he added, reported the Sydney Morning Herald.
Under Australia’s strict border security policy, asylum seekers caught trying to reach the country by boat are sent for processing to camps on Papua New Guinea’s Manus island and Nauru in the South Pacific, and are permanently blacklisted from resettling in Australia.
A spokesperson for the Australian immigration department confirmed the overnight incident on Manus Island.
“The Department is aware of a disturbance involving a group of residents in the mess area of Manus RPC,” the spokesperson said in a statement on Sunday. “The disturbance has now been resolved. There is minor property damage and no reported injuries.”
The United Nations and human rights groups have condemned Australia’s immigration policy, citing human rights abuses in the centres on Manus Island and Nauru and prison-like conditions that have driven some detainees to attempt suicide.
A total of 872 asylum seekers are held on Manus despite Papua New Guinea’s Supreme Court ruling in April that their detention was illegal and ordering the camps to close.
Additional reporting by Reuters.