19 Jun 2019

UN experts call for better care of Manus, Nauru refugees

6:13 pm on 19 June 2019

United Nations human rights experts have urged Australia to immediately provide appropriate health care to more than 800 refugees it holds in Papua New Guinea and Nauru.

The catatonic refugee in Lorengau hospital.

A catatonic refugee on Manus Island Photo: Supplied

The Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Felipe González Morales, and the Special Rapporteur on torture and inhuman punishment, Nils Melzer, are among the experts who made the call today from Geneva.

The experts said the Australian government should immediately transfer refugees requiring urgent medical attention to Australia.

Noting reports of self-harm and suicide attempts, the experts said they were deeply concerned that the mental health of the refugees had deteriorated since the Australian election in May.

"These individuals are subject to years of effective confinement in Australia's custody, based solely on their migration status.

"The situation of their indefinite and prolonged confinement, exacerbated by the lack of appropriate medical care amounts to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment according to international standards," the experts said.

"Australia should look for long-term solutions for these migrants while solutions cannot be found in the offshore facilities."

In response to Australia's claim that "no one is denied appropriate health care", the experts said evidence suggested several refugee deaths had resulted from the lack of access to medical treatment.

The deteriorating physical and mental health of others, seems to have been caused by the a lack of health care, exacerbated by the indefinite and prolonged confinement, they said.

Service providers were also identified by the experts as having reportedly failed to facilitate access to health care in a number of instances.

Other refugees with serious or chronic medical illnesses that urgently require attention have been left untreated for months or even years, they said.

"Australia has the ultimate responsibility for migrants who are transferred to its offshore facilities and should remedy the situation without any delay to prevent any further harm to these individuals, including devastating impacts on their physical and mental integrity, and loss of life.

"We are concerned that some of these facilities are detention-like, which should not be used to host asylum seekers or refugees.

"Facilities on Christmas Island or Port Moresby are not equipped with appropriate health care facilities, goods or specialised medical personnel to address their medical needs."

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