health care

He is only ten years old

Dear Prime Minister,

I cannot believe I live in a country where a letter like this is necessary. Your Minister of Home Affairs tried to block life-saving tertiary psychiatric care for a ten-year-old child who has been suicidal since 2013. This is the second court case Minister Dutton's department has lost recently over the acute medical care urgently needed for children detained on Nauru.

The judge ruled that Australia “held a duty of care” to the boy and his family as the entity that had placed them on the island and which ran the offshore processing centre and the regime that held them.
— Ben Doherty, The Guardian Australia

This comes after Dr Nick Martin's damning revelations of how medical care for refugees is routinely blocked.

Every clinical decision that you made was being questioned by a non-medic. I had never had that in the forces. Your expertise and your autonomy was respected in the Royal Navy but in [Australia’s] border force you did absolutely feel there was a political influence on the clinical cases.
— Dr Nick Martin

I have previously written a number of letters to you about the dangerously inadequate healthcare for refugees on both Nauru and Manus Island. What action will you take to ensure all outstanding medical treatments are delivered immediately to the refugees?

Refugees denied medical care on Manus

Dear Prime Minister,

Thirteen refugees who have been waiting in Port Moresby for months to receive medical treatment were dragged out of their motel at 3.30am on 23 February by PNG police and forced onto a plane back to Manus Island. Refugees on Manus have reported that there is no room for the returnees in West Haus but they have been left there even though there is nowhere for them to sleep. This is the second group of unwell refugees that have been returned to Manus without receiving medical treatment. The small hospital on Manus cannot provide anything but most basic health care and is often without drugs and basic equipment. This has been verified repeatedly by the refugees, by hospital staff, and by humanitarian agencies and other visitors. The Department of Home Affairs maintains the lie that health care is provided. Most urgently, refugees who need urgent psychiatric care are left untreated. At least two men have attempted suicide in the last week. It is only due to the constant attention and intervention by their fellow refugees that they are still alive.

Australia’s responsibility

Dear Prime Minister,

Australia’s Department of Home Affairs (formerly DIBP) claims that the refugees on Manus island are free to settle in Papua New Guinea and that they are supported to do so by PNG services. Yet nine of these men in Port Moresby were abruptly arrested by police on 20 February and forced to the airport to be flown back to Manus. As the UNHCR said in January:

Neither Papua New Guinea nor Nauru are appropriate places for local integration for the majority of refugees and asylum-seekers, particularly given their acute needs as a result of prolonged detention and harsh conditions.

PNG does not even have a register of how many refugees and asylum seekers are in Port Moresby and on Manus Island.

These men are our responsibility. Bring them here.

Suicidal child

Dear Prime Minister,

It has taken a Federal Court order to force the Commonwealth to save the life of a young girl. Health professionals, aid agencies, humanitarian organisations, advocates and refugees have struggled for years to get proper healthcare for the children on Nauru. Apparently Minister Dutton does not care if a child commits suicide.

Judge Bernard Murphy said:

The injury or damage the applicant may suffer if an injunction is refused — death or a further serious deterioration in her health — carries far more weight in the balance than the wasted expenditure the Commonwealth may suffer if an injunction is granted.

Sack Minister Dutton. End offshore detention. Bring all asylum seekers to freedom and safety now.

Ill Newborn

Dear Prime Minister,

On 28th January I wrote to you about baby Melvin, born on Nauru 3 weeks earlier and gravely ill. He and his mother were sent 'home' to their camp on Nauru. However the baby is still unwell, His navel is still bleeding, he cries from pain and does not sleep. His mother cannot get medication to treat him, not even antiseptic ointment to prevent another infection.

How does withholding medical treatment from a newborn benefit Australia's security?

15 sick men forced back to camp

Dear Prime Minister,

Fifteen sick men were forcibly returned to Manus from Granville Lodge, Port Moresby [2 Feb].
Armed police and PNG Immigration officers forcibly removed 15 sick men from the Granville Lodge accommodation in Port Moresby about 3 am this morning. They took them back to West Haus and Hillside Haus, in Lorengau, Manus Island.
The group included 8 refugees and 7 asylum seekers. After waiting months in Port Moresby, many have received little or no medical treatment. Many have not finished their medical treatment, for some, their medical treatment had not commenced.
Many men who have been waiting for medical treatment since arriving in Port Moresby since August 2017 have not been given medical appointments yet.
IHMS has been the contracted medical services supplier to men taken against their will Manus Island. IHMS contract expires this month. There seems to be no other contractor now employed to provide those services.
Manus Island’s medical services are insufficient for the local population. Manus Island does not have the facilities to treat the sick men detained on Manus Island.

This is completely unacceptable. Withholding medical treatment from detainees is torture. End it now. Bring all detainees on Manus and Nauru to safety and freedom now.

UNHCR report on Manus

End offshore detention #442

Dear Prime Minister,

After stopping access to cigarettes, coffee, tea and sugar Australian immigration has ordered IHMS on Manus to give the refugees one month's supply of their medications.

What risk is there to a person suffering from mental illness who is given a month's worth of pills?

On behalf of the 432nd man on Manus Island, Rajeev. RIP

Dear Prime Minister,

This is letter is to put on the record the voices of some of the friends of Rajeev, who was killed by Australia yesterday. These are voices from Manus, from men who are suffering physical pain, mental anguish and the unimaginable torture of not knowing when their suffering will end.

We have lost another brother because of a cruel government’s lack of heart and compassion. We feel alone and rejected by the world, as we see many of us deteriorating. But we must remember that to honour you and the ones we lost before, that we stay United. That we don’t let the powerful divide us. That we don’t lose ourselves in anger and grief. We will honour you and those before him, by keeping our dignity and honour, we will fight, with no violence, we will never give up on each other. Their memories are burnt into our heart and soul. We will carry them alive in our thoughts. Dear brother, we list you today, we feel empty. You are now with the brothers that also were taken from us. We love you. And honour you. You were too good for this pain. You are with us forever.
— Shamindan
they called us queue jumpers and now we are in the queue to be killed one by one so please tell us how many more lives do you need from us
— Aziz
Another death on Manus today. 

A Sri Lankan refugee, whose life had been filled with anguish, unspeakable trauma and insufferable hardships for more than four years at the hands of the Australian government, finally took his last breath on this Death Island. 

Being a refugee meant his life didn’t matter to this world, just like the other five men who have died on Manus. I know the media will hold a few interviews with the officials and write some articles and then he will be forgotten.

All he asked for was his freedom, in a place where he could breathe safely. The same wish as that of the rest of the refugees on Manus Island. It doesn’t matter how the world labels his death, we all know that he was a victim of a deliberate torturous and inhuman policy. What more can I say? Nothing really.

Rest in peace my brother.
— Imran
You are a murderer!
How much wrong are we willing to do in the name of right?
Blocking the sea to prevent deaths with human flesh as an obstacle is not a policy. It is criminal.
You are killing innocent men, women and children intentionally. By taking their liberties and incarcerating them in your concentration centers offshore. 
How many more of us should be sacrificed and murdered by this asylum seeker ‘policy’?
May the people who vote for humanity judge you and your misdeeds.
— Omid
Another friend died in Manus Island today. Like Hamed he was tortured by medical neglect. He died because the Australian government didn’t care. His body was found near Lorengau hospital this morning. He had suffered with mental illness for a long time but was not able to access appropriate care because there are no mental health facilities in Manus Island, and authorities offer no assistance. He had been living in the transit centre in East Lorengau for about three months. Three days ago he attempted suicide but his friends were able to help him and send him to Lorengau hospital. Unfortunately, despite their best efforts, he was found hanged this morning. It is clear he was very unwell, but his death remains suspicious as his body was found in exactly the same way as Hamed who died two month ago. Whatever happened in his last moments, his death is a great tragedy and a great injustice. Manus Island is not a safe place for refugees and asylum seekers. Lorengau hospital is very basic and not equipped to treat this kind of illness. All of the refugees in Manus today are feeling very heavy with this news. There is a feeling of deep despair for this man’s suffering, anger at the circumstances of his death, and a sense of powerlessness that such a barbaric system is allowed to continue torturing and killing innocent people despite the overwhelming evidence of its cruelty. This man should not have died. He should have been in a safe place with access to appropriate medical care. Our peaceful protest is cancelled today and we will hold a vigil for our friend. We are calling for an independent investigation into his death. We will prevent violence because we know the fascist Australian government would try to use it against us. We won’t allow Australia to kill any more people.
— Behrouz

These men are not 'they', but part of us, of 'we'. What are your answers to the questions we ask?

How many more lives do you need from us?
How much wrong are you willing to do in the name of right?
How many more of us should be sacrificed and murdered by this 'asylum seeker' policy?

We are calling for an independent investigation into Rajeev's death. What is your response, Prime Minister?

No health care

Dear Prime Minister,

Why did Dr John Brayley, former chief medical officer of the Australian Border Force (ABF), resign last week? Who is overseeing the medical services for Australia's prisoners on Manus island and Nauru since Dr Brayley's resignation? Why has Minister Dutton not responded to Shadow Minister Neumann's concerns about medical treatment for asylum seekers on Nauru being blocked?

Why haven't you sacked Minister Dutton? Incompetence, repeated lying, $9.6 billion wasted, eight people dead are each reason enough.

Amnesty now for all detainees on Nauru and Papua New Guinea. 

Existing laundry services will cease

Dear Prime Minister,

Yesterday during the 42nd day of peaceful protest by the refugees detained at Manus Island RPC their placards included:

"Mr Dutton: killing innocent people is not a victory"
"No more hostages"
"Australia. Responsible for us"

'Today marks 1513 days of detention for the innocent human beings held in our illegal, degrading and dangerous offshore camps on Manus and Nauru.' - Michele Feinberg with Naeem Bangash

'Today marks 1513 days of detention for the innocent human beings held in our illegal, degrading and dangerous offshore camps on Manus and Nauru.' - Michele Feinberg with Naeem Bangash

On the same day the refugees were issued with yet another announcement of removal of services, despite the centre officially running until 31 October. 

No power. No water. No hot food. No laundry.

No power. No water. No hot food. No laundry.

End the torture. Bring all asylum seekers and refugees to safety and freedom now.

Forced removals

Dear Prime Minister,

The forcing out of refugees from the relative safety of the detention centre on Manus Island continues. RadioNZ reports that a second group of thirty men has been forcibly removed by plane from Manus to Port Moresby under the pretence of accessing medical care. However, they have been left at a motel, with no support. They are in danger of being arrested and jailed for being illegally in PNG. Another thirty men in the Manus detention centre have been told that they will be moved to Port Moresby next week.

Meanwhile yesterday at the detention centre the phone room was demolished so that refugees cannot contact their families or their supporters in Australia. And equipment and supplies meant for the refugees have been taken by Broadspectrum and donated to a local school.

Please show leadership and end this. Sack Minister Dutton, bring all offshore detainees to safety and freedom immediately and establish a Royal Commission to ensure that this never happens again.

Suffering on Nauru

Dear Prime Minister,

In the four letters of reply I have received from 'JC' of ABF Ministerial Correspondence Section Support Group he/she writes that 'all transferees receive clinically indicated health care broadly consistent with Australian public standards' . This is a lie.

Dr Paddy McLisky said in The Guardian today that

the Australian immigration department had deliberately created a cumbersome, complex, and bureaucratic process for medical transfers, that appeared as though it was designed to fail.

There are nearly 50 refugees and asylum seekers held on Nauru - including at least three women seeking to terminate their pregnancies - who are refused, or not considered for overseas medical treatment. This is in defiance of doctors' recommendations.

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection has designed a system to block all medical transfers while presenting a pretence of medical care. As Greg Lake, former Detention Centre Director, Nauru, said last year 'Our system depends on making detention worse than the place people are fleeing from. Worse than Syria under ISIS. It depends on taking away people's hope and dignity.'

As a matter of government policy and of Australia's reputation and standing, I ask you to immediately end the torture and indefinite detention of asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru and bring them all to safety and freedom now.

End offshore detention now. #337

Dear Prime Minister,

Behrouz Boochani publishes this image of a huge knife wound inflicted on a refugee by a Manus Island local and asks: 'How does Australia want to settle refugees in PNG?'

Attack highlights danger for Manus refugees: RadioNZ

Attack highlights danger for Manus refugees: RadioNZ

The latest attack on a Manus Island detainee shows it is too dangerous for refugees to settle in PNG. Bring them to Australia immediately.

We have nothing to live for

Dear Prime Minister,

Australia's torture of refugees on Manus Island and Nauru takes many forms. Behrouz Boochani, other detainees, advocates and agencies continue to report on the torture applied by withholding healthcare. Apart from instances such as detainees having to remove their own teeth due to no dental care, there is the particular cruelty of using health issues to separate families and then keeping them separated to inflict more suffering.

Today's Guardian (20.6.2017) reports on a father and son stranded on Nauru while the mother and daughter have been in Brisbane for three years for medical treatment. All four have been formally recognised as refugees. The son has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and is under watch in case of harming himself or others. Psychiatrists who have seen him on Nauru recommend that he be transferred to Australia for treatment  and to be reunited with his mother. However the government's policy (that is, your government, Prime Minister) is that it will

"only approve medical transfers if refugees are likely to face permanent disability or death."

The details of the family's situation described in the article, compounded by their indefinite separation, are horrific. It is completely unacceptable that Mike Pezzullo did not respond to questioning about families being separated when he appeared before Senate estimates in May. As Ian Rintoul says, family separation is deliberately punitive and the family members left behind on Nauru are being used as hostages. The father of this separated family says

"All I want to do is join my family, I want them to be treated, I don't want anything else."

Prime Minister, bring them here.

End offshore detention #325

Dear Prime Minister,

Refugee Week starts today, with the violent assault of a sick refugee by guards at the Manus Island RPC. Behrouz Boochani reports that the man has been asking for medical care for more than one year after having an unsuccessful operation in Port Moresby.

'IHMS is the main tool in Manus for torturing people.' - Behrouz Boochani

Close the camps and bring them here.

Only if they are at point of death

Dear Prime Minister,

An asylum seeker on Nauru who needed knee surgery was finally sent, after many months, not to Australia but to a hospital in Papua New Guinea. When DIBP has been asked about this and similar cases it says that the Government of Nauru determines who gets transferred to Australia for medical treatment. Leaked documents from IHMS show this to be a lie. It is the Australian Border Force who controls the Government of Nauru and prevents asylum seekers from being flown to Australia. Patients will only be transferred if they are at risk of permanent disability or death.

Stop the torture. Close the camps. Bring them here.

No health care on Nauru

Dear Prime Minister

Listen to the recorded conversation between a refugee on Nauru and his doctor, who has tried for 10 months to get him an urgent MRI. The doctor says 'the medical system here is broken.'

Mark Colvin said, in his interview with Richard Fidler, to ask the simple questions. Good advice.

Who benefits when the Nauru hospital refuses to provide refugee patients with prescribed healthcare?

How much is the Government of Nauru paid to deny overseas referrals for gravely ill refugees?


Illegal deportation

Dear Prime Minister,

Why does Australia continue to argue that the refugees on Manus Island are subject only to PNG decision-making? The Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs clearly stated that it is Australia who is liable for the safety of asylum seekers in PNG and Nauru. As is concluded in an article critical of Australia's attempts to deport the injured Azzam el Cheikh:

Australia cannot evade its responsibilities by tricky manipulation of international borders or contractual terms. Australia is calling the shots and Australia must adhere to the most fundamental moral obligation to treat sick people with dignity. Instead, however, it has ordered the deportation of a seriously ill man with no concern for his health or Australia’s legal obligations toward him. In doing so, it is complicit in cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and likely breaching obligations under international law to ensure deportations do not give rise to a risk of persecution or torture.