'It's Like A Graveyard': Another Refugee Sets Himself Alight On Manus Island
A mental health and self-harm crisis continues to spiral on Manus Island, with another refugee setting himself on fire and a man scaling a tall phone tower before threatening to jump off.
Since mid-May, nearly 100 incidents of attempted suicide and self-harm have been reported among refugees and asylum seekers on the Papua New Guinean island. The men there, transported to Manus after attempting to reach Australia, say they have lost hope of ever being resettled in a third-country.
The latest headline incidents came in recent days, with refugees saying an Indian man set himself on fire in his room after seeking medical help.
Photos from Manus show accommodation blocks alight and with smoke billowing.
"He has been suffering with severe health issues," Manus refugee Shamindan Kanapadhi said.
"His medical treatment has been denied for a long time."
Kanapadhi claimed the man had been turned away from a medical clinic and later self-harmed and set himself on fire.
Security and other refugees broke down the door to his room and extinguished the fire, but the man was said to have suffered extensive burns.
It comes two weeks after a Somalian refugee also set himself on fire, in the East Lorengau camp.
On Thursday, another refugee scaled a tall phone tower. The action, Iranian journalist and refugee Behrouz Boochani said, was in protest to the extensive delays in American authorities on Manus approving refugees to be resettled there as part of a swap deal with Australia.
Around 500 people have been resettled in the U.S. under the swap, but dozens more on Manus still await the outcome of their applications.
"Most people are in their rooms, very depressed. We need to recognise this," Boochani told 10 daily on Thursday.
"They are broken, they are living in their rooms. It's like a graveyard, this is the only only word I can use."
The escalation in self-harm comes as Australia recognises Refugee Week. While refugees on Manus call for their applications to be processed faster, with some having been on the island for six years, Boochani shared news that a former refugee there had found success.
Also this week, the Federal Court ruled in favour of changes to the controversial 'medevac' legislation, expanding the opportunity for refugees to be taken to Australia for medical treatment by removing the need for doctors to physically examine patients -- instead ruling that medical evacuation decisions can be made solely through an assessment of medical records.
"It's a good decision in our favour, it's the right decision," Boochani said.
"How can we have access to doctors? How can doctors talk to us, with the internet we have? How can we call them? They made decisions based on our documents and medical records provided by their system, on their documents, so why are they scared of it?"
The federal government has flagged it may appeal the court ruling, while the new parliament -- due to sit for the first time next month -- could even overturn the legislation entirely.
"We are scared because they are more determined to repeal the law, that is dangerous," Boochani said.
"To everyone in Australia, my request for society is they should do whatever anything they can do to save the medevac law. It is the one chance people who are really sick can get medical treatment. People should fight to save this medevac law."