Advocates slam holding Manus Island refugee 'in police cell' after self-harm

A refugee advocacy group says there have been two more suicide attempts on Manus Island.

Authorities respond to one of the two suicide attempts.

Authorities respond to one of the two suicide attempts. Source: Supplied

An Iraqi refugee who attempted suicide on Manus Island is being held in a police cell as he recovers, according to an advocacy group.

Refugee Action Coalition spokesperson Ian Rintoul, who is on Manus Island, told SBS News the man attempted to harm himself on Tuesday, with local police putting him in a cell as "there was nowhere else that is suitable or secure".

The East Lorengau Refugee Transit Center on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea.
Source: AAP

"Anywhere else but Manus Island, it would be unbelievable that someone who is having a mental health crisis is actually confined in a police cell," he said.

The man allegedly had access to health professionals from contractor Pacific International Hospital (PIH).

"There no crime - it's only because of his mental health situation and he attempted suicide and that's why he's been placed there," Mr Rintoul said.

"Police said he will not be released until a PIH psychiatrist gives the all clear ... [This is] a disgraceful extension of PIH hospital facilities."

Mr Rintoul said a Somali man also attempted suicide on Wednesday and he is now in a health facility. 

"These are just the most recent examples of the mental health emergency on Manus Island. The Australian government needs to act," he said

SBS News has contacted the Department of Home Affairs about the two cases and the quality of mental health care on the island.

The regional processing centre on Manus Island's Lombrum Naval Base closed in 2017 but there are about 600 refugees living in camps in the main town of Lorengau.

The offshore policy is designed to deter people embarking on treacherous sea journeys, but the United Nations and other rights groups have long criticised the camps' conditions and the long detention periods.

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 and Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 (up to age 25). More information about mental health is available at Beyond Blue.

Published 1 May 2019 at 7:29pm, updated 2 May 2019 at 8:00am
By Nick Baker