Manus Island MP: Build hospital to stop refugee deaths

9:01 pm on 26 December 2016

Australia must build and staff a hospital on Manus Island to prevent refugees from dying in the future, the Papua New Guinea politician who represents the island says.

Protest by refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island.

Manus Island refugees and asylum seekers protest their detention. Photo: Supplied

On Christmas Eve, 27-year-old Sudanese man Faysal Ishak Ahmed, who had been evacuated from Manus Island after suffering seizures, became the fourth refugee detained on the island to die.

The processing centre on the island houses close to 900 refugees and local MP Ronnie Knight said the situation there was increasingly tense.

"We really find it hard to believe that this is going on in this day and age in this country," he said.

Mr Knight said he was extremely frustrated following the death of a fourth refugee.

"It doesn't reflect back [well] on my people and my province," he said.

"Originally it was supposed to be a township out there, [but] it's just a big military-style barracks, or mining-camps-style of barracks out there."

Mr Knight said they had originally been told that a "decent hospital" would be built.

"And the amount of money that is being paid for those people out there, you would think by now they would have a decent health system out there and a couple of competent doctors or something … to keep this sort of thing from happening," he said.

"And if they are misdiagnosing calls like this, what does this hold for more refugees in the future?"

Mr Knight said it needed to be done urgently.

"Why don't they just spend some money and upgrade the local hospital and staff it properly and bring it to the stage it was when the Australian navy was there?

"We even had a diving chamber there for people that had got the bends. These are things that we need to look at.

"Is it cheaper for them to just wait until [it] gets to the position where they have to medivac a person for hundreds of thousands of [local currency] kina, than have a proper staff hospital that can take care of them on the spot?"

US deal 'just more propaganda'

Yesterday protesters showed up at a Christmas charity lunch attended by Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in Sydney.

Mr Turnbull said that he made no apologies for keeping the borders secure and that the Australian Government policy was compassionate.

There were plans to move some refugees offshore to the US, he said.

But Mr Knight said he did not have much hope the US deal would lead to the closure of the facility.

"Our hopes were pinned on this American deal that was supposed to happen and we were told that in early January, or mid-January, most of them would be repatriated to the United States," he said.

"Now I can see that's probably just more propaganda to keep people placid and just while the time away."

There have been three other refugees from Manus Island who have died.

Reza Barati, 23, died following protests inside the Manus detention centre in 2014.

Hamid Kehazaei, an Iranian asylum seeker, died in a Brisbane hospital in September 2014.

Pakistani Kamil Hussain drowned at a waterfall on the island near the main town of Lorengau.


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