Holding suicidal refugee in Manus Island police cell 'barbaric'

4:38 pm on 3 May 2019

It's barbaric a suicidal refugee was held in a police cell on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island, an advocate says.

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

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

The island's police chief said the man was transferred to Port Moresby after two nights in jail.

About 500 refugees remain in three detention centres on the island, where the Catholic church says suicide attempts and self harm are a daily occurrence.

The men have been held by Australia without trial since 2013.

The advocate Ian Rintoul said he visited the refugee at the police station and that he was unresponsive.

"It is barbaric that someone who so obviously has got an acute mental health issue, who needs serious psychiatric help, is lying on a cement floor in a police cell in Lorengau police station," Mr Rintoul said.

"It says everything you'd want to know about Manus Island that someone with an acute mental health problem ends up on a cement floor in a police cell."

The police chief, David Yapu, said there was no where else on the island the suicidal refugee could receive the constant supervision he needed.

"We don't have a facility. That is a big problem," Mr Yapu said, although he noted that another refugee who attempted suicide this week was sent to Lorengau hospital.

A suicidal refugee is taken to hospital by Paladin security staff.

A suicidal refugee is taken to hospital by Paladin security staff. Photo: Shaminda Kanapathi

A psychiatrist had been checking on the man during his stint in the cells, but Mr Yapu said he was unhappy that the suicidal refugee was placed in his care.

"That's the responsibility of the stakeholders who are responsible for the refugees. They must have a facility available for people who self harm or people who attempt to commit suicide."

The company contracted to provide healthcare to refugees on the island, Pacific International Hospital, does not provide a 24 hour service, Mr Rintoul said.

"The clinic at East Lorengau, it shuts at 4.30. It's not open at the weekend," he said.

Speaking from Manus Island, Mr Rintoul said he had noticed a decline in the condition of some of the refugees since his last visit in September 2018.

"It's got worse. The fact that the medivac bill has been carried but nothing has changed, if anything the general circumstances among the refugees is noticeably worse," he said.

"You couldn't overstate the hopelessness. When I raise the issue that we might see the end of the Morrison government and their could be a change of government in Australia, people simply shrug their shoulders," he said.

"They've seen governments come and go. It's six years now and it's difficult to describe six years of no prospects, no future.

"Not even the prospect of a change of government in Australia - they just don't think it's going to be of any consequence. They just can't see a future."

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