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"We’ve lost hope" - Nauru detainees report new suicide attempts amid Trump refugee deal confusion

Witnesses who supplied this image advise SBS it shows the Afghani detainee being treated by paramedics after swallowing pesticides in a suicide attempt Source: Supplied

As the future for detainees on Nauru looks more uncertain than ever amid confusion around US refugee deal, detainees tell SBS Arabic 24 that "we have lost hope," as they report another new suicide attempt on the island this week.

English transcript of the Arabic interview here
                                                                                                                                               
                         

SBS Arabic24 learnt on Sunday that there has been another suicide attempt in the detention centre in Nauru. 

Fellow detainees tell SBS that a young Afghan man drank pesticide in an attempt to end his own life. Eyewitnesses said paramedics arrived on the scene and tried to revive him, then took him by ambulance to a nearby health facility (he has since been returned to the camp).

The news comes as the confusion has arisen over the refugee deal between Australia and the United States following a phone call between the new President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull last week.

This situation appears to have added to the uncertainty the detainees have faced for over three-and-a-half years and exacerbated their despair.

An Iraqi refugee who was distressed after the incident and who wished to remain anonymous, told SBS Arabic24 the situation there is worsening each day, but he did not wish to be interviewed as he was too distressed after witnessing his fellow detainee collapsing on the ground between life and death.

"I lost the best years of my life, what crime did I commit to be treated like this?"

Another refugee by the name of Hassoun*, aged 27, also witnessed the incident. He said the reason behind such incident is well-known, "we have lost hope now more than ever before, our mental health is deteriorating, we had enough of this place."

Hassoun said that he too attempted self-harm a few months ago as his frustration and despair grew day-by-day.

"They torment us [psychologically] until we harm ourselves, then they treat us," he says.

"A few months ago, I cut my wrist with a razor, they treated me, then brought me back to the detention centre," explains Hassoun.

"I can’t sleep, I think about my future, I lost the best years of my life, what crime did I commit to be treated like this?"

When SBS approached the Department of Immigration and Border Protection in regard to this week's incident, a spokesperson advised "The Department does not comment on individuals’ medical cases."

Suicide attempt Nauru
Witnesses who supplied this image advise SBS it shows the Afghani detainee being treated by paramedics after swallowing pesticides in a suicide attempt
Supplied

As to what kind of support is provided to individuals with declining mental health or who attempt self-harm, the spokesperson advised, "The Department and its contracted health service provider, provides significant support to the government of Nauru to provide health and welfare services to transferees and refugees in Nauru."

"I have not seen any American on the island."

Listen to Hassoun's full interview (in Arabic) with Arabic24 here: 

Hassoun, who has so far spent 33 months in detention on Nauru, questioned the sincerity of the Australian government to end their dilemma and cast doubt about the deal between Australia and the US. He claims that he has not seen any American official on the Island as part of the vetting process.

"I did not have any interview with them," says Hassoun. "I have not seen any American on the island."

He did however report the presence of some international immigration officials on Nauru, who may have been representatives of the United States.

"We’ve seen some officers -  not sure if they are Americans or not. I think they’re from Thailand or the Philippines, claiming that they work on behalf of the Americans."

"Everyone here is so desperate, young and old, we lost hope in life, believe me."

Hassoun says he believes the delay in providing a workable solution to their situation aims to break them.

"We’ve lost hope - it’s all lies," he says. "They have no humanity, believe me."

"Everyone here is so desperate, young and old, we lost hope in life, believe me."

Hassoun arrived on Christmas Island in August 2013 and spent ten months there before he was taken with others to the detention centre in Nauru. He was recently granted refugee status.

Hassoun is from the Arab ethnic community which lives in the Khuzestan Province in Iran, known as Ahwazi Arabs. 

In April 2015 Human Rights Watch reported that "Iranian security forces have arrested at least 78 people, and possibly more than 100, since mid-March 2015 in the city of Ahvaz, the Khuzestan provincial capital, and surrounding towns and villages following largely peaceful protests."

The report added that the whereabouts of more than 75 people held after the protests remain unknown.

Hassoun also addressed the proposal to  refugees by the Australian government to either live in Nauru long-term, settle in Cambodia or go back to their original countries. Hassoun refused to accept these as options, stating that they are all impossible.

He says that after being detained for nearly four years, “they should find a real solution for us, we had enough here, the situation is so desperate, I’ve tried once to end my own life and I may do it again, we lost hope in life."

*Name has been changed.

If you or someone needs help or information with the issues raised in this article, call:

Lifeline – 13 11 14

Suicide Call Back Service – 1300 659 46 

MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78 

Beyondblue - 1300 22 4636 

SANE Australia helpline 1800 18 SANE (7263) 

For people from a culturally and linguistically diverse background:
Multicultural Mental Health Australia 

For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People:
Local Aboriginal Medical Services available from www.vibe.com.au