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13 Nov 2017

Disturbing reports emerging from Manus Island about lack of food, water and medication has led to the AMA calling for assurances from the Federal Government about the health and wellbeing of asylum seekers there.

A week after the scheduled closure of the Manus Island Detention Centre, there remained about 600 men refusing to move – causing local lawyers to seek an injunction from the PNG Supreme Court to compel the Government to reconnect services and provide food and security for the men.

Amid conditions described as “chaotic and dangerous” as detainees are being forced to move from the closing centre to alternative accommodation in the community, the AMA has called on the Australian Government to treat the refugees humanely.

AMA President Dr Michael Gannon said putting the asylum seekers into a dangerous and unhealthy situation was totally unacceptable.

“The Government has a responsibility to ensure the safety, health, and wellbeing of all the detainees on Manus, and we will be seeking assurances to that effect,” Dr Gannon said.

“The AMA has been concerned about the health care for asylum seekers in off-shore detention for many years.

“People seeking asylum who are under the care of the Australian Government must be provided with proper health care.

“Many asylum seekers have complex mental and physical health needs.

“The AMA has previously raised their circumstances with the Government as the remote detention facilities are often not able to provide the care needed.

“It is clear that the current situation on Manus is unhealthy and dangerous.”

During an interview on ABC Radio, Dr Gannon said he was not hearing a great deal from doctors on the ground at Manus so it was difficult to get a true picture of what is going on.

What the AMA wants, he said, is transparency about the arrangements for the men still at the centre.

“We’re concerned about both physical and mental aspects of the health of these wretched souls who are stuck in a bigger political game,” Dr Gannon said.

“They have great uncertainty in their lives, they have done for years, and we're hearing unverified reports about reduced access to medication. Some medications, as you know, need to be refrigerated.

“We hear different reports about the quality of what’s available in the alternative accommodations being set up elsewhere on the island.

“What we want is independent verification of the living standards of these men. That’s the only thing that doctors can possibly call for – is appropriate healthcare standards for a group of people who, although they’re not Australian citizens, are entitled to protection under Australian law.”

Dr Gannon said the AMA had been advised that IHMS has been contracted to provide primary health care and mental health care at the East Lorengau Transit Centre once the detention centre had been closed.

“We welcome this move as it will ensure continuity of care, but we need to see an urgent and smooth transition to a safe environment for the detainees,” he said.

“The AMA acknowledges the efforts of the dedicated medical staff and other health workers who are working in very trying conditions.

“Proper health care must be available to the asylum seekers on Manus who are under the care of the Australian authorities.

“Regardless of how they arrived in Australia, these people have fled places of conflict and unrest and have sought asylum and refugee status. They must be treated as any other person in need of health care.”

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull urged the men barricaded inside the Manus centre to move to alternative accommodation.

And he criticised anyone who was encouraging them to stay put.

“There are alternative facilities available of a very high quality, with food and all of the facilities,” Mr Turnbull said.

CHRIS JOHNSON


Published: 13 Nov 2017