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Manus death not suicide, say fellow detainees

Detainee Protests on Manus Island Source: Photo by Behrouz Boochani via Twitter

SBS Arabic24 spoke to Sammy* a refugee inside the Regional Processing Centre in the suburb of Lombrum on Manus Island, after the death of Iranian detainee Hamed Shamshiripour. Sammy cast doubts that it was a suicide case, following months of protests about declining health conditions, he says anything is possible there.

The Iranian man Hamed Shamshiripour was found dead in a forest. A photograph of the scene, obtained by fellow detainees, shows him alongside a tree, with a blue rope around his neck. He was 31 years old and had been given refugee status, as per his ID card, which SBS Arabic24 obtained a photo of.

Hamed Shamshiripour's ID
Hamed Shamshiripour's ID card from East Lorengau Refugee transit centre, as supplied to SBS Arabic24
Supplied to SBS Arabic24

Speaking to SBS Arabic24, Hamed's friend Sammy* questions the reports that Hamed had committed suicide.

He explains that by looking at the photo, it shows a dead body leaning against a tree in a forest with a blue rope around his neck  - but there does not appear to be any darkened colour in the face that would indicate suffocation.

“One cannot say that it is a suicide case," says Sammy. "Because Hamed does not appear to have struggled for oxygen before he died."

Sammy also questioned why would Hamed go to a forest about 5 kilometres away from the centre to kill himself, when he could have killed himself in front of others for everyone to see.

Iranian-Kurdish journalist Behrouz Boochani also told SBS World News that conflicting reports were being received about the cause of death.

“It is very suspicious,” Boochani said.

“I think someone killed him; someone say he [killed] himself.”

“I think someone killed him"

Describing the mood at the centre on the day the body was found, Sammy said there was heightened tension, and the local police were not patrolling the area around the centre, as was the practice in the last week during the daily protests that have been taking place in demand for the return to the electricity and water to parts of the centre.

Sammy said that the detainees also stayed inside today to avoid any contact with the police, and they suspended their protest in mourning for Hamed.

According to Sammy, Hamed was injured in his legs during the riots in 2014. He was flown to Melbourne for medical treatment, “but his injuries and the uncertainty in detention affected his mental health."

"He became so disturbed to the extent that he used to take his clothes off and walk naked.”

Detainees who watched his mental health deteriorating tried to alert the authorities to his urgent need for support but they have also complained at times of his behaviour that was causing them discomfort.

Sammy said “the PNG police took Hamed to the transit centre in Laurengau and kept him there for about a week then brought him back to the main detention centre in Lombrum.”

“Hamed displayed disturbing habits such as alcohol and drug abuse and he wasn’t eating well.”

Hamed had applied in the last 12 months to be returned to Iran his country of origin “but he was neither returned nor treated for his mental health problems,” as Sammy said.

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection has issued this statement in response to the incident:

“The Department is aware of a death in Lorengau Township."

"PNG authorities are investigating the matter.

"Further questions should be directed to the Government of PNG.”

"He became so disturbed to the extent that he used to take his clothes off and walk naked.”

This incident came just a day after another refugee at Manus detention centre, Abdul Aziz, told SBS Arabic24 that about 50 detainees were taken to the IHMS facility for treatment following a viral outbreak which caused them vomiting and diarrhoea.

He said that this was due to the lack of water in the Foxtrot compound after the PNG authorities cut off power and water in Foxtrot in an attempt to shut the compound and move people to the transit centre in the Island which is located in the suburb of Lorengau.

He described the health situation as appalling due to reduced hygiene in the toilets and scarcity of water for human use.

The Corporate Affairs Department at International Health and Medical Services, confirmed in an email to SBS Arabic24 that:

“There are a small number of stakeholders and residents at the Manus Regional Processing Centre currently affected by gastroenteritis."  

"Those who were kept in the medical clinic for observation and isolation over the weekend have now been discharged and no new cases have been reported.”

Listen to Abdul Aziz's full interview (in Arabic) with SBS Arabic24:

 

In regard to the health conditions, the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection also said in a statement: "Questions relating to operational matters at the RPC should be referred to the Government of PNG."

The detainees had been holding peaceful protests for the last six days demanding the return of power and water to Foxtrot saying that other compounds cannot accommodate the number of people who used to be at Foxtrot and the option of living in the transit centre in Laurengau is not possible because this means settling in PNG permanently.

Both Abdul Aziz and Sammy warned of tougher days ahead if the PNG authorities push further towards evacuating the detainees from the detention centre in the town of Lombrum and force them into the transit centre in Laurengau. 

Listen to the full interview with Abdul Aziz in English here

*Name changed on request

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467.

MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78.

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SBS News: Refugee advocates tried to help Hamed Shamshiripour found dead on Manus Island
SBS News: Refugee advocates tried to help Hamed Shamshiripour found dead on Manus Island