Manus Refugee Sets Himself On Fire As Self-Harm Crisis Escalates
Refugee advocates have pleaded for Parliament to act after the latest incident in a string of shocking self-harm incidents in the Australian facility on Manus Island.
Since mid-May, more than 50 incidents of attempted suicide and self-harm have been reported among refugees and asylum seekers on the Papua New Guinean island.
The latest case was a Somalian refugee who was said to have set himself on fire, in the in East Lorengau camp, on Monday morning. The man was quickly extinguished, and 10 daily understands his injuries -- while serious -- are not considered life-threatening.
Photos posted on social media by a fellow Manus refugee show the man lying injured on the floor, a burn visible on his torso through his shirt, surrounded by fire retardant chemicals and with a fire extinguisher nearby.
"Every day here on Manus people harm themselves. We're very hopeless," one refugee said.
"Enough, let us go we human beings."
Iranian journalist and refugee Behrouz Boochani told 10 daily the man was undergoing treatment for his burns.
"They transferred him to hospital and [he] still is in hospital. Since the election more than 50 suicides and self-harms happened" in Manus and the PNG capital of Port Moresby, Boochani said.
Ian Rintoul, of the Refugee Action Coalition, said the situation on Manus Island remained dire for refugees and asylum seekers.
"There's been a plethora of overdoses... multiple instances daily of attempted suicide and self-harm," he told 10 daily.
"Some are serious enough that people are transferred from Manus to Port Moresby. The hospital is unable to deal with them all and people are returned to the compounds, then it happens all over again."
PNG police had attempted to quell the epidemic of self-harm, but their efforts had done little to ease the situation, Rintoul claimed.
"Nothing happened. There was an appeal from Manus police, who called on Australian authorities to bring an end to the spate of self-harm and suicide, but nothing subsequent," he said.
"Police find themselves in a very difficult situation... people attempting suicide have been placed in police cells, which is symptomatic that things are out of control. Whether police or hospital, no-one has an answer."
Manus Provincial Police Commander David Yapu said a police contingent would be deployed for three months to respond to the self-harm outbreak.
"The deployment of a Mobile Squad Unit to the Manus Island recently has been part of the efforts to assist in reducing the attempted suicides at the East Lorengau Refugee Centre," he said last week, adding the spate was a "concern".
In a Facebook post, Yapu asked “what more can our police officers do", admitting "suicides, self-harm are beyond our control and part of system of depression related to long-term offshore detention, unknown future and families living away from them and result to severe mental illness.”
Rintoul called for the new Federal Government -- which is due to convene in Canberra later this month, for the first time since the May election -- to urgently find a solution to the crisis and find resettlement areas for refugees, some of whom have been on Manus for six years.
"[The government] has no resettlement program, the U.S. deal is almost finished, the people accept there is no other resettlement places," he said.
"People on Manus and Nauru are languishing without hope."