22 Nov 2018

Refugees on PNG's Manus Island 'feel abandoned'

4:41 pm on 22 November 2018

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

A feeling of abandonment is compounding the mental health crisis among refugees on PNG's Manus Island, according to the Refugee Council of Australia.

The 111th daily protest at the detention centre, 19-11-17.

Manus Island detainees protesting in 2017 Photo: supplied

The council, alongside Amnesty International, released a report this week detailing the increase in the number of refugees and asylum seekers self-harming and attempting suicide.

According to the report three people have committed suicide and in the last two months at least five others have attempted to end their lives - one of them swallowing razor blades and nail clippers.

The Refugee Council of Australia's Director of Policy Joyce Chia said that since the over 600 refugees and asylum seekers were evicted from the Regional Processing Centre on Manus a year ago, they had increasingly pessimistic views about the future.

"I think people, perhaps not surprisingly, after five years of detention and prolonged limbo are really starting to lose hope and really starting to feel forgotten and abandoned and absolutely we're at a very critical point."

She said it was alarming that there is now only one small clinic and the severely understaffed local hospital to serve the men, and all torture and trauma counselling had been cut.

The refugees often have to pay for their own medications, medical reports and health care after, Dr Chia said.

"And they increasingly have to navigate their own way through very difficult healthcare system and they don't have interpreters. And they are really abandoned in a lot of ways, and I think that sense of abandonment is what's tipping them over the edge."

Dr Chia said that once the Manus detention centre closed the men felt that the Australian government washed their hands of responsibility for them.

She said they were also becoming disillusioned by the fact that there was less and less media coverage of their situation.

"The media in Australia have been complicit, I would say in the forgetting of the men on Manus Island, it's not for lack of trying by advocates in Australia but there's a sense of 'we'd rather not talk about it'."

She said knowing they were being forgotten about, was taking its toll on the men.

"Unless men are dying in much more awful ways than they are now, there's a sense of [the media] isn't interested, and I think that's very difficult for the men on Manus.

"[The men] are feeling increasingly neglected by the media and the community."

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.